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The Mentor's Dilemma: Providing Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide



Critical feedback may be especially threatening to minorities because instead of merely offering information about areas in need of improvement, it raises the prospect that they have been judged in light of a negative stereotype. Stereotype threat creates additional consequences for minorities’ motivation upon receiving negative feedback. The decision to renew one's effort carries an increased cost of failure because such failure threatens to confirm the alleged limitation in ability both in the eyes of others and perhaps in one's own eyes.


Wise feedback is critical feedback with an explicit invocation of high standards and an appropriate assurance that the person in question could meet such standards. When given "wise feedback", minorities were much less likely to believe the reviewer was biased and had increased motivation to continue with the task. Additionally, the gap between minority and non-minority students was erased.


Millennials want to be treated with the same respect as everybody else. We expect you to give us feedback that reflects that our abilities are assumed, not doubted. We don’t need you to buffer the criticism with non-specific praise, withhold criticism, lavish praise, or lower performance standards. Instead, let us know what the high standards are for this task, truly believe that we can be successful, and act on that conviction.