Insights for Negative Feedback

I love negative feedback don’t you?  Especially when it comes from my wife and kids. My teenagers especially. Since they now have nearly 18 months of semi-adult life experience between them, it’s great to be the recipient of this storehouse of wisdom which they are so graciously willing to share with me.

The truth is that we ALL hate negative feedback.  And we hate giving negative feedback as well. Or positive feedback for that matter.  One study found that 40% of leaders don’t give any feedback at all, good or bad.

So, researchers at the University of Toronto rolled up their sleeves and published a 2016 study on this topic in the journal “Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes” (how this journal survives when ‘Guitar Aficionado’ has to shutter its doors is anyone’s guess).

The study was about who takes negative feedback best, and when the optimal time to give it is.

They found that people high in both self-control and self-improvement motivation took it best.  In other words, people who really want to improve take feedback better than people who don’t.  Great to see our tax dollars unearthing these gems of hidden wisdom.  So not a huge surprise there.

However, they did uncover a couple of really useful insight about the timing of giving negative feedback.

Insights for negative feedback

  1. Give the feedback early in the day – resources dwindle as the day goes on, and we have less strength to face it late in the day
  2. Let a day pass before critiquing a negative situation – let the person process what happened (say, a really negative customer interaction, or a bombed presentation).  They will be more open to your feedback the day after the event has happened

Nothing gets better without a feedback loop in place.  Products improve because customers complain, or choose to sit on their wallets.  Marriages get healthier when differences are discussed and behavior is modified.

Yes, even parents need feedback so they can get better (this summer I asked how I could be a better dad, and my teenagers brought up the topic of ‘rage cleaning’).

Give feedback because you care, and receive it with thanks because it’s hard to give, and it can only help you if you have the humility to receive it.

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