Management & Organization

Criticize me, it makes me better

Do not be afraid of giving your employees negative critique (feedback). Because the reality is that aspecially experts actually are motivated to do their work even better when they recieve negative – but always constructive – feedback.

Interesting new research by Stacey Finkelstein (Columbia University) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago) shows that there is a difference between what motivates, and that this difference depends on whether your employees feel like beginners/newcomers or experts/experienced.

Motivate your coworkers with the right feedback

The researchers conclude that beginners prefer positive feedback. They would rather know what they are doing right. It motivates the beginner, makes him want to continue learning and underlines that his goal (for instance learning a new language) has value. Experts on the other hand prefer negative feedback. Employees that are comfortable with an assignment use negative feedback to assess whether they are approaching their goal with the right speed and thus gets encouraged to proceed towards the final goal.

It's important to remember that negative feedback must be constructive. You may have to point out what is wrong, but afterwards it's important that you express how it could be done in a better way.

Who is who?

Novices are in this context to be understood as the inexperienced. People that are learning a new skill. In your company the beginners could be new employees or coworkers that has been given a new area of responsibility. Experts are your experienced coworkers. Those that feel safe about their assignments. The level of expertise thus has nothing to do with the level of education or the job title, so you could actually well be an expert and a beginner at the same time – merely within different responsibility- or work-areas.

You will sell more, if you provide the right feedback

If you want your customers to engage deeper with your products, you can also use these tendencies by differentiating your communication between beginners and experts. You tell new users of your products how well they are already using them. On the other hand you tell you experienced users how they can use the products in an even better way.

You can advantageously design your feedback with the professional level of the consumers in mind. For instance training facilities praises new customers for the things they are doing right (for instance doing a specific exercise the right way), while experienced customers should be given negative feedback within an area where they are able to improve (for instance where they can improve the way they conduct a certain exercise).

It is also interesting that beginners have a greater tendency of changing attitude and behavior because of positive feedback, while experts reacts the same way regarding negative feedback. Actually research show that people are willing to spend more money if you offer them the correct form of feedback. An example could be at the hairdresser: If your customer gets her hair dyed for the first time, you will have a greater chance at selling the product again, if you praise what the customer have done right (for instance bought a shampoo that keeps the color). Meanwhile an experienced customer is more likely to purchase again, if you – in a constructive manner – tells what he/she can do better (for instance use a shampoo that is meant for dyed hair).

However, that beginners and experts prefer and reacts to different types of feedback does not mean that should not praise your experts at all or never give your beginners negative critique. Just make sure to do the opposite as well.