Aneeta Rattan & Lily Jampol

For most people we want feedback at work, but it is also something we dread. Unless feedback is actionable and helpful, it just feels like unnecessary criticism or a way for organizations to try and get people to fit into toxic workplace cultures.

In the HBR article entitled Women Get “Nicer” Feedback — and It Holds Them Back authors  Lily Jampol, Aneeta Rattan and Elizabeth Baily Wolf shared how their research finds even if their male and female employees perform at exactly the same level, managers tend to prioritize kindness more when giving feedback to women than when giving the same feedback to men.

Across a series of studies, we asked more than 1,500 MBA students, full-time employees, and managers based in the U.S. and the UK to imagine giving developmental feedback to an employee who needed to improve their performance. The employee was described in exactly the same way to all participants, except that half were told the employee’s name was Sarah, while the other half were told the employee’s name was Andrew. We then asked the participants about their goals going into this conversation, and while they all said they wanted to give candid feedback, those who were told the employee was named Sarah were significantly more likely than those who were told the employee was named Andrew to prioritize being kind as well. This was true regardless of the gender or political leanings of the person giving the feedback: Whether they self-identified as male or female, liberal or conservative, our participants consistently reported being more motivated to be kind when giving feedback to a woman than when giving it to a man.

Joining us on the podcast today is Lily Jampol, Partner and Head of People Science and Services at ReadySet and Aneeta Rattan, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, where we will unpack all things feedback related.

In their article for HBR, Lily, Aneeta and Elizabeth share that constructive feedback is essential for anyone’s growth. Most of what we learn at work – around 70% happens informally and on the job. We learn through the feedback we get, it is literally how we develop our social and technical skills.

But as a manager, it can be challenging to get the balance right between being kind but also clear and firm.

Given the important role that feedback had on an employee’s development, engagement and performance, we need leaders to understand how to get it right. Here Lily shares four actions we can use to improve the feedback we give:

Action One:

Create a culture of feedback systems and behavioral approaches.

Action Two:

Establish common touch points so early intervention takes place when employees seem to be struggling.

Action Three:

Prepare your feedback sessions, what are the three things you want to get across in your feedback?

Action Four:

Review the feedback which has been given, take an audit to use for future feedback sessions.

Lily Jampol

Aneeta Rattan