Giving Critical Feedback Is Even Harder Remotely

Written by Therese Huston - Published on HARVARD Business Review

Delivering constructive feedback is nerve-wracking in the best of times — most managers don’t want to crush their employees’ spirits. These tough conversations are even harder to have as multiple crises and their side effects wear on, which can make the negativity bias that often accompanies them even worse. To top it all off, a change in venue from in-person to remote removes the nuance that can help soften the blow of bad news.

Negativity bias shapes how people hear feedback. As Roy Baumeister and John Tierney explain in their recent book, The Power of Bad, it’s the “universal tendency for negative events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones.” In other words, we ruminate over criticism and brush past praise.

Negativity bias can be a challenge in any feedback conversation, but it’s particularly problematic right now because of the chronic stress many people are experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Research has shown that chronic stress is tied to a stronger negativity bias. Right now,