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Zenger Folkman Reveals the Vital Importance of Managers Giving Positive Feedback


All managers, no matter what industry they are in or part of the world they live in, have varying beliefs about the best kind of feedback to give their subordinates. Some believe that negative (redirecting) feedback is more helpful, and others think it can be harmful. Others simply refuse to give any feedback at all.

Zenger Folkman’s latest study was done as a self-assessment for over 7,000 managers that measured two things: first, if managers avoided giving any kind of feedback, and second, their preference for giving positive or negative feedback.

“Given the anxiety some leaders have about giving negative feedback, it surprised us to find that a higher percentage of people avoided giving positive feedback (37 percent) than negative feedback (21 percent),” said Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger Folkman. "We can only conclude that many managers feel that it’s their job to tell their direct reports bad news and correct them when they make a mistake.”

Additionally, Zenger Folkman was able to analyze the leadership effectiveness of these managers based on the type of feedback they would give or avoid and the effectiveness of their subordinates. They found that a manager who completely avoided giving positive feedback and gave only negative feedback was in the 37th percentile of effectiveness. In contrast, those who gave both positive and negative feedback were in the 54th percentile. The most interesting fact was that the managers who avoided giving negative feedback and focused on the positive were in the 55th percentile. Clearly, positive feedback can have a huge impact on the overall effectiveness of subordinates.

“When talking with leaders it seems that an overwhelming majority believe that giving positive feedback is much easier than giving negative feedback, yet 37% of managers say they avoid it. Why?" asked Zenger. "Perhaps it starts with the perception that the really good managers are the tough graders, who are not afraid to tell people what’s wrong. Possibly they believe that giving people positive feedback will encourage a subordinate to let up or coast. Maybe they are emulating their prior bosses who gave little praise, but who pointed out any mistakes or weaknesses. Some may believe it a sign of weakness to praise subordinates. Finally, unfortunately, maybe many leaders just don’t know how to do it.”

To learn more about the effects of positive and negative feedback, attend Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s webinar, The Absolutely Vital Practice of Managers Giving Positive Feedback, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. For more information on these findings, and how to incorporate them into a leadership development plan, visit www.zengerfolkman.com.


Zenger Folkman exists to develop better leaders. We research leaders from all over the world and create insights that are delivered to individual leaders in a personal and constructive way. These scientifically derived insights include prescriptive actions that become measurable business results. To learn more, please visit our website: www.zengerfolkman.com.

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