Giving regular feedback is a wonderful means of both improving performance and also boosting employee engagement. This is especially so amongst younger employees that have grown up in an environment swamped with feedback in various forms.
Having said that, it is important that the feedback is delivered appropriately. Some new research has explored the consequences of bad blood in the workplace.
The research saw participants examined for day-to-day swings in anger levels. They were each asked to complete a diary of their mood before work, after work and before bed over a two week period. Alongside this, they were asked to record incidents of task conflict, such as disagreements on how to solve a problem, and personal frictions on a daily basis.
The researchers then analysed the mood shifts following such conflicts, after of course taking into account the mood at the start of each day. How much did conflicts affect the mood of participants, and how long did this shift last for?
The research found that participants felt angrier at the end of days involving personal conflicts with colleagues, with those feelings often lasting into the night, and sometimes into the next day. When the day involved both task and personal conflicts however, the affect was much shorter lived, with it seldom spilling over into night or the next day.
The researchers believe that this seemingly paradoxical finding reflects our preference to assign task related disagreements to the situation within which they occurred, ie blaming it on the tension surrounding a project rather than to a particular colleague. This benign interpretation allows us to dispose of the tension relatively quickly.
According to this research, the more personal ‘storm in a teacup’ may actually be the most insidious type. With nothing wrong to fix, it’s easier to paint the other person as difficult or even malevolent, and that may be a hard place to recover from. If you want to smooth ruffled feathers it may be useful to focus attention on the task components of disagreements, encouraging reappraisal of the situation, and leading people away from a less defensive mindset.
So, the research clearly suggests that the best feedback is focused purely on the task involved rather than anything personal. At least that is, if you want a harmonious workplace.