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Faculty & Research


A Bias Toward Kindness Goals in Performance Feedback to Women (vs. Men)

Journal Article
While research has documented positivity biases in workplace feedback to women versus men, this phenomenon is not fully understood. The authors take a motivational perspective, theorizing that the gender stereotype of warmth shapes feedback givers’ goals, amplifying the importance placed on kindness when giving critical feedback to a woman versus a man. The authors found support for this hypothesis in a survey of professionals giving real developmental feedback (Study 1, N = 4,842 raters evaluating N = 423 individuals) and five experiments with MBA students, lab participants, and managers (Studies 2–5, N = 1,589). Across studies, people prioritized the goal of kindness more when they gave, or anticipated giving, critical feedback to a woman versus a man. Studies 1, 3, and 5 suggest that this kindness bias relates to gendered positivity biases, and Studies 4a and 4b tested potential mechanisms and supported an indirect effect through warmth. The authors discuss implications for the study of motivation and workplace gender bias.

Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour