Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How We React To Disconfirming Feedback

Francesco Gino has conducted research into how people react to critical feedback.  Unsurprisingly, she finds that we do not deal well with feedback.   Well, perhaps there is some surprise here. After all, I seem to read often these days that millennials love feedback.  I've always wondered about the veracity of that statement.  It seems that it has become conventional wisdom without much data to support the conclusion.   Gino's research shows that we do not like disconfirming feedback - i.e. critiques that are more negative than our own self-evaluations.  Moreover, we try to distance ourselves from those that offer us disconfirming feedback and seek out others to add to our network that will affirm our positive self-evaluations.   Here's an excerpt from Gino's HBR article about this research:

We found that in the year following feedback, an employee was more likely to eliminate someone from his or her network who offered “disconfirming” feedback (i.e., feedback that is more negative than one’s own self-evaluation) than a reviewer who provided “confirming” feedback. More specifically, when a colleague’s review was one point lower on a seven-point scale than one’s own self-review, the employee was 44% more likely to drop the relationship with that colleague.

We also found that when receiving negative feedback from fellow colleagues with whom they must retain a working relationship, employees tried to create a more hospitable network by seeking new colleagues who were relatively disconnected from their current circle.

In follow-up laboratory studies, we found that people engage in such behaviors because disconfirming feedback threatens their own views of their skills and accomplishments.

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