The trouble with negative feedback

Negative behaviours from managers and/or team members can affect the entire team dynamic. This is why acknowledgement and appreciation are important forms of feedback in any workplace.

Negativity infiltrates organisations

According to research from Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Western Australia, in the same way that employees often try to model their supervisors’ positive traits, negativity can also move through every level of an organisation. Crystal Farh and Zhijun Chen investigated the impacts of ‘hostile managers’ in workplaces.

The 2014 study found that when supervisors were verbally abusive to individual employees, entire workplaces could be thrown into turmoil. Conflict increased between team members and productivity was also likely to be affected.

That’s the most disturbing finding,”  “Because it’s not just about individual victims now, it’s about creating a context where everybody suffers, regardless of whether you were individually abused or not.”

Crystal Farh, Michigan State University

Farh credits the findings to the widely researched ‘social learning’ theory; the belief that people learn and model their behaviour on their observations of others. In this case, the supervisors were the key influence on worker attitudes.

Employees emulate leader behaviour

Farh explained how previous research had shown that employees often mirror their managers’ positive behaviours, so it makes sense that negativity would have the same result. This demonstrates the importance of maintaining a positive and healthy senior management team. One method of doing this is to use feedback surveys that focus on strengths and positivity.

Foster a positive environment

Leaderskill’s low-threat Leader/Manager Model™ 360 degree surveys are designed to foster a more positive result. Rather than managers getting stuck on previous mistakes and criticism, while these are important to take into account if expressed, they are used within the overall context of strengths-based feedback as an opportunity for development. This feedback approach enables the management team to benefit from positive psychology.

This helps not just the managers, themselves, but also the total workforce. Supervisors constantly hounded with criticism are likely to become negative and hostile towards their staff. Whereas those who are acknowledged for their contributions and given strengths-based feedback are more able to influence a happier and healthy team dynamic.

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