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Anger and attitudinal reactions to negative feedback: The effects of emotional instability and power

Abstract

Feedback is a basic tool that is used to stimulate learning and performance at all organizational levels. However, negative feedback can sometimes evoke defensive responses such as feelings of anger or the repudiation of the feedback. In two experiments we explored whether people’s negating responses to feedback are grounded in their emotional instability, and if this effect is stronger for those who hold more power. The findings from Study 1 (N = 84) showed that in response to negative feedback more emotionally unstable individuals experienced more anger. In Study 2 (N = 47) we indicated that anger mediated the negative effects of emotional instability and power on liking of the feedback provider, perceived ability of the feedback provider, and feedback acceptance. Our findings indicate that power strengthens the influence of emotional instability on responses to negative feedback and point to the importance of anger as the underlying factor influencing crucial attitudinal feedback reactions.

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Notes

  1. All three studies indicated that anger had an effect over and above general negative affect or other specific negative emotions.

  2. Numerous authors have argued that dispositional personal distress in fact reflects general trait emotionality (Carlo et al. 1999; Ormel et al. 2004; Spreng et al. 2009) because it is strongly correlated with a proneness to experience negative emotions, emotional vulnerability, and uncertainty (Davis 1983).

  3. We performed a principal component analysis using OBLIMIN rotation of the emotional instability items. The results indicated that one factor explained 46.02 % of the variance, and all items loaded above .57 on that factor. A principal component analysis of the anger items generated one factor, which explained 69.64 % of the variance. All items loaded above .78 on the intended component.

  4. We performed a principal component analysis using OBLIMIN rotation of the emotional instability items. The results indicated that one factor explained 34.68 % of the variance, and all items loaded above .31 on that factor. A principal component analysis of the items used to assess the dependent variables anger, perceived ability of the feedback provider, liking of the feedback provider and feedback acceptance generated four factors, which explained 80.00 % of the variance. All items loaded above .52 on the intended component and cross-loadings were not higher than .42.

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Niemann, J., Wisse, B., Rus, D. et al. Anger and attitudinal reactions to negative feedback: The effects of emotional instability and power. Motiv Emot 38, 687–699 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9402-9

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Keywords

  • Power
  • Emotional instability
  • Anger
  • Feedback