Inaccurate Feedback May be Affecting
Your Bottom Line

I recently came across a research report done by a local university researcher who specializes in psychology and the importance of self-understanding.

Young-Hoon Kim, a lead researcher at Pennsylvania University worked with Chi-yue Chiu, a researcher at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Zhimin Zou from Peking University to evaluate the impact that feedback has on high school and college students. The results were pretty interesting.

Over 3,000 students took a test and received either accurate  or incorrect feedback (either too positive or too negative). Later, students were asked about their thoughts on depression and how they felt. Surprisingly, students who received accurate information (whether good or bad) were much happier than those who received incorrect scores. Even those that did not do well at least in fact felt comfort knowing that the results were accurate and improvements needed to be made.

So, what does this mean for us?

We’re constantly faced with the question, “How did I do?” Managers in particular have opportunities to provide feedback on an almost daily basis. Many poor managers are often afraid to address employees’ weaknesses and provide false praise. Other poor managers tend to be overly critical and fail to recognize the positive aspects of an employee’s performance. What kind of impact can inaccurate feedback have on your employees and business?

False view of self

Employees that get inaccurate feedback can develop a false view of their strengths and weaknesses. For some, this could mean a lack of confidence in their abilities and a failure to take on challenging tasks. For others, it could mean committing to work that they don’t have the skills to do, resulting in failed or poorly executed projects.

Future Failures

Providing inaccurate feedback to your employees is truly setting them and you up for failure. Those who do not have a true understanding of their performance will, inevitably, be informed of the opposite some point later in their career. This type of back and forth will ultimately lead to frustrated, unsuccessful employees who will then lead your company to be frustrated and unsuccessful as well.

Lack of Motivation

Remember, employees listen to what you say. If you consistently give false praise for mediocre performance, it could very well demotivate your good performers while reinforcing the bad habits of your poor performers.

Loss of Productivity & Money

If you are overly critical, normally enthusiastic employees may be afraid to try something new or suggest a new way of doing something. The more frustrated your employees come, the lower their productivity and the higher cost to you and the company.

Bad Company Reputation

Disgruntled employees can significantly impact how your company is viewed by others. Word will get out if many of your employees feel they are being provided inaccurate feedback or no feedback at all! Employees need to feel appreciated and valued, and a great way to provide them with this is to nurture their skills and ensure they understand that you care just as much about their success as they do.

Effective Employee Feedback

So now that we understand the importance of providing valuable, accurate feedback, what can we do? Here are some pointers for providing, accurate yet constructive feedback.

Be prepared.

Look for opportunities to tell employees how they are doing. Make sure that you are giving them clear direction and guidelines. If you have employees that are surprised by their performance reviews, than as a manager, you haven’t done your job

Stick to the facts.

When giving feedback, don’t let your emotions get involved,. Do your best to provide clear, concise pointers for improvement and WHY these types of issues are important. If you’re providing feedback on a particular project, stick to that topic alone.

Stay balanced.

You want your employee to understand both what they did well and what they need to improve on. Don’t just focus on the negative. Do your best to provide a well-balanced, honest evaluation of the employee’s skills.

Don’t send mixed messages.

If you provide negative feedback, don’t go back on it. Sometimes we may feel that what we just said was too harsh, so our natural tendency is to try to go back and remedy it. Providing conflicting feedback will only hurt the employee in the end. Stay confident – this feedback is going to help the employee in the end.

It’s not you.

It’s important that your employee understands that your feedback is about their work, not about their worth as an individual. Emphasize that your goal is to help them grow and develop. Listen and question to confirm their understanding. If your feedback is negative and an employee sounds defensive, ask them to restate your concerns.


Make sure you spend some time helping your employee make the improvements you’d like to see. It will help them see that you’re on their side and that you care about their success. This can be a monthly follow up meeting or casual emails on how the employee is doing with a specific project.

Helpful Products & Online Courses

DiSC 360 Report – An online assessment program developed to provide 360 degrees of feedback for leaders in any industry or experience level.  Peers, employees, supervisors and others close to the leader evaluate the leader’s skills in a constructive, easy-to-understand format. No certification required.

Read the Research Report

Know thyself: Misperceptions of Actual Performance Undermine Achievement Motivation, Future Performance, and Subjective Well-being