The Surprising Benefits of Negative Feedback

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When we talk about feedback, we often focus on the positive side of it all. That makes sense, considering that happy workers are 12 percent more productive than unhappy ones. So, we focus on how feedback can improve engagement, how it’s good for job satisfaction, and how younger generations of employees crave regular feedback from managers.

However, there’s another side to feedback that no one likes to discuss: negative feedback, the dark side of performance culture.

Confrontation is hard. Negative feedback is very difficult to give or receive. While no one likes negative performance discussions, failing to offer negative feedback actually does more harm than good to both your organization and your employees. By not offering negative feedback, you prevent employees from growing into the best professionals they can be.

Furthermore, your employees actually want negative feedback. According to Harvard Business Review, 57 percent of the employees prefer corrective – i.e., “negative” – feedback to praise.

Employees need negative feedback. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t damage employee engagement. In fact, the best way to damage engagement is to simply give no feedback at all.

The takeaway is clear: You’re a bad boss if you don’t provide negative feedback. Feedback from supervisors is valuable to workers. It helps them improve their performance, and it shows them their managers are interested in their careers.

The Clear Benefits of Negative Feedback

Ultimately, the best thing about negative feedback is that it fosters creative and innovative thinking.

For example, one study conducted by a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkely, found that teams that debate and critique one another’s ideas produce an average of 25 percent more ideas than those that do not. Another study found that 92 percent of employees believe that appropriately delivered negative feedback improves employee performance.

What does it mean to deliver negative feedback “appropriately”? According to a study reported in The Washington Post, employees are most motivated to improve when they receive feedback that is “constructive and respectful.”

So, it turns out that negative feedback plays a pretty important role in the workplace. The next time performance reviews come around, be sure to keep this in mind. Be truthful with employees, even if that means telling them they’re doing something wrong. Just be sure to deliver your negative feedback constructively and respectfully!

A version of this article originally appeared on the iRevü blog.

Michael Heller is the CEO and founder of iRevü.

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Michael Heller has 20+ years of experience in strategic human resources, talent management, and technology consulting. As an HR executive at Washington Consulting, Digital Management, and Deltek, Michael led teams to develop innovative human capital management programs and initiatives. Previously, Michael held a variety of positions at American Management Systems and Booz Allen Hamilton where he executed on talent acquisition, total rewards, performance management, strategic HR partnerships, and philanthropy strategies. Michael serves the community as a board member of Teardrops to Rainbows, an organization dedicated to supporting the families of children with cancer. Michael has a master's degree in human resources from Georgetown University and earned his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Connecticut. Michael resides in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with his wife and daughter. He enjoys cooking and college basketball.