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


Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Jampol L;Rattan A;Wolf E B


Publication Year



While research has documented positivity biases in workplace feedback to women versus men, this phenomenon is not fully understood. We 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. We 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 5 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 vs. a man. Studies 1, 3, and 5 suggest that this kindness bias relates to gendered positivity biases, and Studies 4a-4b tested potential mechanisms and supported an indirect effect through warmth. We discuss implications for the study of motivation and workplace gender bias.

Available on ECCH


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