The Power of Listening in Helping People Change

By Guy Itzchakov and Avraham N. (Avi) Kluger

Giving performance feedback is one of the most common ways managers help their subordinates learn and improve. Yet research has revealed that feedback can actually hurt performance: More than 20 years ago, one of us (Avraham) analyzed 607 experiments on feedback effectiveness and found that feedback caused performance to decline in 38% of cases.1 This happened with both positive and negative feedback, mostly when the feedback threatened how people saw themselves.

One reason that giving feedback (even when it’s positive) often backfires is that it signals that the boss is in charge and the boss is judgmental. This can make employees stressed and defensive, ...

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