How can retailers take the stress out of giving and getting feedback?
A new university study finds that, while high-empathy leaders tend to be better at giving negative feedback in a helpful manner, they become more distressed, inattentive and less effective at their jobs afterwards.
In a penned article in Harvard Business Review, the researchers led by Ravi Gajendran, Florida International University’s chair of the global leadership and management department, wrote, “Since being more empathetic essentially makes leaders more likely to ‘catch’ others’ emotions, a strong negative emotional reaction from the recipients could spill over onto the high-empathy leaders, affecting their own emotional states and thus their performance.”
Their basic advice for such leaders is to set aside some recovery time.
Less empathetic leaders, conversely, are less likely to take their employees’ perspectives. They are often energized by giving negative feedback and thereby incentivized to do more. Coaching lower-empathy leaders to be more compassionate was recommended.
Feedback is crucial for developing employees and improving their performance but remains inherently stressful for both the giver and receiver. Provoking strong emotions and often defensiveness, the stress involved in receiving feedback can make the situation counterproductive and may even cause a decrease in performance.
An often-quoted 2017 survey from Zenger/Folkman, a strengths-based leadership development firm, found 44 percent of managers agreeing that negative feedback was stressful or difficult. Twenty one percent avoided giving negative feedback. Surprisingly, 37 percent admitted that they avoided giving positive feedback.
Feedback often likewise fails to inspire employees. A recent Gallup survey found that only 26 percent of employees strongly agree that the feedback they get actually improves their work.
Among the tips for delivering feedback to employees is to make it a frequent event so that the annual review, if necessary, offers no surprises. Being timely, sincere, specific and giving positive feedback first are other common suggestions.
Writing for Psychology Today, Mira Brancu, who heads a leadership and team development consulting company, said reactions to feedback often depend on two factors: the receiver’s relationship with the person giving the feedback and differences in perspective.
Her core advice, “Approach with a curious mindset, first asking questions and seeking to understand.”
- Giving Negative Feedback Can Make Empathetic Leaders Less Effective – Harvard Business Review
- Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise? – Harvard Business Review
- Annual reviews can be fraught. Here are tips to help you prep – The Seattle Times
- Tips for Delivering Feedback More Effectively at Work – The Balance Careers
- Five Strategies for Giving Better Feedback – Psychology Today
- Why the C-suite Embraces Empathy as a Key Leadership Approach – WWD
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What tips would you offer for delivering as well as receiving feedback? Why do you think the feedback process is often so nerve-racking for both sides?