Effective feedback is the cornerstone of professional growth and organizational success in today’s workplace. Men and women often have unique approaches to feedback. Men favor a direct and assertive style, and women focus on relationship dynamics and holistic development. Additionally, each generation, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z, brings its own set of characteristics and expectations regarding feedback. Understanding these perspectives is essential for fostering a culture of open communication and mutual growth. This blog explores these nuances, providing insights into navigating feedback effectively in a diverse and dynamic workplace.
There are general trends in how men and women give and receive feedback in the workplace. Men tend to lean towards a more direct and assertive approach. Research shows that men receive more action-oriented feedback on tasks, projects, performance improvement, and achieving goals.
Women more often prioritize maintaining positive relationships when giving feedback, considering how it may impact the overall dynamics of the team. Additionally, they tend to adopt a holistic approach, considering not only task performance but also personal growth and development. Why? When female leaders assert themselves, they can be construed as bossy or aggressive. Therefore, 48 percent of women avoid voicing issues at work so they are not viewed as a problem themselves.
When receiving feedback, women may be more attuned to the emotional nuances, considering the content and delivery. They typically receive general and vague feedback, emphasizing collaboration and support and therefore less action-oriented. Some managers may exhibit reluctance in providing women with constructive criticism, apprehensive about how it might be received. There is a concern that the feedback could be perceived as “unpleasant” or “upsetting” and is often rooted in gender-related stereotypes. In fact, research has found that women are 20 percent less likely to receive actionable feedback, reducing the usefulness of the feedback provided and directly impeding their professional growth and development.
Related blog for Aleron Group partner TalentRise: Leveraging Emotional Intelligence to Navigate the “Double Bind”
Each generation tends to have unique characteristics and preferences regarding giving and receiving feedback in the workplace. Here’s a general overview of how each generation may approach feedback:
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): 58 percent of baby boomers prefer annual performance reviews with data to support your feedback. They prefer face-to-face communication and formal sessions with direct and specific feedback. They value praise and recognition for their hard work and experience and appreciate constructive feedback if delivered respectfully. Baby boomers have a strong sense of loyalty to their organization, so be sure to acknowledge their dedication and long-term commitment to the company.
Generation X (born 1965-1980): 44 percent of Generation X workers prefer annual performance reviews. They highly value candid and direct communication, emphasizing outcomes and efficiency. While not as formal as their Baby Boomer counterparts, they appreciate constructive criticism and welcome suggestions for growth. Recognizing their knack for taking initiative and making sound decisions is essential, underscoring how their contributions align with the organization’s objectives and goals.
Millennials (born 1981-1996): Just 38 percent of Millennials prefer annual performance reviews and instead desire frequent, ongoing feedback through regular check-ins with information shared in a supportive and positive manner. Collaboration is a cornerstone of their feedback expectations, with a strong emphasis on personal and professional growth. Feedback focusing on skill development, advancement opportunities, and alignment with company values resonates particularly well with this generation, as it underscores their desire to impact the organization positively. Known for their proficiency with digital tools, Millennials are comfortable with various communication platforms, ranging from emails and messaging apps to project management software, while valuing face-to-face interactions.
Generation Z (Born 1997-mid 2010s): 69 percent of Gen Z workers want feedback at least weekly and don’t view traditional reviews as beneficial. This generation places a premium on open, real-time communication, avoiding formality for a more casual approach. Proficient in digital tools and platforms, they comfortably utilize channels like email, messaging apps, and collaborative platforms for feedback, emphasizing continuous learning and skill development. Recognizing their desire to foster inclusivity within the workplace and acknowledging their contributions will resonate positively with Gen Z employees.
Related blog from Aleron Group partner Acara Solutions: 3 Expectations Gen Z Has for Their Employers in 2023
Treat individuals as unique.
It’s crucial to note that these are general tendencies and do not apply universally, as various factors such as personality, culture, upbringing, and personal experiences influence communication styles. It’s essential to avoid gender and generational stereotypes and treat individuals as unique. Tailor feedback to the individual’s preferences and be adaptable and considerate of your employees’ and colleagues’ diverse preferences and communication styles.
This blog was written by Broadleaf Senior Vice President of Client Delivery Suzie Mitchell.