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Self-Improvement Study: Gender And Age Influence Feedback Acceptance

Posted by Brian Spence on Jun 22, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Self-Improvement, ProductivityFeedback--it's an important part of self-improvement, but what if you have trouble accepting feedback? Some of us act defensively when receiving criticism, while others easily take things to heart. What sets these people apart?

According to a study done by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, age and gender can be influential in a person's reaction to negative or positive feedback.

According to Zenger and Folkman, younger age groups tend to be defensive and try to "prove" themselves or their work, while older groups are more likely to have an accepting or "improving" mindset.

The two mindsets are similar to a "fixed" or "growth" mindset, which can impact self-improvement over time. The study also found that women are more likely to have a proving mindset early on in their career, but usually shift to an improving mindset before their male counterparts.

Surprisingly, the study found that people with defensive attitudes when receiving feedback were more likely to lack self-confidence. Without confidence, these individuals felt the need to prove their work or rationalize their actions, versus accepting feedback and change. Those who accepted feedback looked at criticism as a way to improve their work, rather than as an attack on their efforts.

The data were based on 7,000 individuals who were asked to self-assess their reactions to recent feedback. Though it revealed insight on how age and gender might affect our reactions to feedback, neither age nor gender determines self-improvement. Instead, the data can help us understand how to shift our mindsets for self-growth and improvement, especially if we're young or just starting a new career. For managers, this data can help them improve their feedback style, and make sure that their criticism recognizes hard work.

To see in-depth charts and explanations, visit the study at the Harvard Business Review. For more information on this and related topics, visit the Self-Improvement and Productivity sections of our blog.


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