Women assimilate negative feedback more than men

A new study by IE Business School professor Margarita Mayo published in the Harvard Business Review finds that women and men respond differently to peer feedback. Women tend to allow other people’s perception of them change their self-perception, while men don’t assimilate this feedback quite as much. 

Mayo asked her business school students to rate themselves and one another on their leadership skills. All students tended to rate themselves more highly than their peers rated them. But over time, women started to change their ratings to conform to how other people had rated them, while men stayed closer to their original high rating of themselves. 

Here is her conclusion:

All in all, our results show that men and women deal differently with the emotional fallout associated with receiving feedback. The incorporation of peer feedback requires changing our personal frame of reference. But whereas women tend to assimilate new information into the way they see themselves; men tend to overestimate their leadership views to preserve their sense of personal efficacy.

Of course, this was a relatively small experiment with a sample size of only 221 students, broken into 169 men and 52 women. But Mayo wonders whether women can use this tendency to their advantage to seek out training to improve areas of weakness, while men can try harder not to ignore other people’s negative feedback about them. 

Read more in the Harvard Business ReviewES