September 21, 2023

‘Passionate’ But Not ‘Ambitious’: Report Exposes How Stereotyped Employee Feedback Harms Retention

People of Color

Black and Hispanic employees receive lower-quality feedback on their job performance, leading to poor retention, a new study has found.

For the second year in a row, Textio’s annual Language Bias in Performance Feedback report found that employees receive personality feedback based on race and gender stereotypes.

Last year’s findings showed that women, Black and Hispanic people, and those over 40 systematically received lower-quality and biased feedback at work. 

This year, the study investigated the connection between feedback quality and employee retention and found a clear link between the two. 

Black employees are ‘passionate’ but not ‘ambitious’ 

The report found that personality feedback was heavily stereotyped among racial groups.

Black employees were the most likely to be called ‘passionate’ (61%) and the least likely to be called ‘ambitious’ (8%). For Asian employees, it was the opposite, with 57% being called ambitious and 17% passionate.

By contrast, Hispanic employees reported being called passionate twice as often as white employees.

White workers were the most likely (41%)  to be deemed ‘easy to work with’ compared to 28% of Hispanic and 12% of Black workers. 

The terms ‘brilliant’ and ‘genius’ were used more for women than men and twice as much for white men than Black men.

Additionally, managers were more likely to identify white and Asian men as possessing innate intellectual ability than employees from other groups.

There were also gender and racial biases in the quality of feedback. Women received almost twice as much feedback they could not use (unactionable feedback) than men and Black people received more than twice as much unactionable feedback as their white and Asian colleagues.

Impact on employee retention

The 2023 Diversity in Tech Report recently found that nearly 3 in 5 businesses are struggling to retain their diverse tech talent.

Texito’s latest report sheds more light on why this may happen.

Textio’s report found that unactionable feedback is particularly problematic because people who receive actionable feedback have significantly more opportunities to learn and improve.

Their key findings included people who get low-quality feedback are 63% more likely to leave their organizations than everyone else.

83% of men also said that they understand what’s required to earn their next promotion compared to 71% of women, non-binary, gender-nonconforming, and transgender people.

When some groups get more actionable feedback than others, it sets up a foundational inequity that underlies the entire performance management and compensation system.

The report concluded that people who get the least actionable and direct feedback, women of all races, and Black and Hispanic people are likelier to leave their organizations.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.