Destructive Criticism Revisited: Appraisals, Task Outcomes, and the Moderating Role of Competitiveness


  • We wish to thank Courtney Cantor, Benton Glaze, Kadin Nazkani, Mark Phillips, and Dave Tomczyk for their assistance with data collection.

Jana L. Raver, Queen's University, Queen's School of Business, Goodes Hall, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6. Email:


Destructive criticism is negative feedback that is inconsiderate in style and content, which exists at the intersection of performance feedback and interpersonal mistreatment. The current research integrates these literatures with an investigation of the effects of destructive versus constructive criticism from a co-worker on recipients' relational appraisals, emotions, and task outcomes. Drawing from theorising about cognitive appraisals after personal affronts, we first propose that those who experience destructive criticism are more likely than those who experience constructive criticism to (a) perceive that the feedback-giver intended to harm them, (b) blame the feedback-giver, (c) distrust the feedback-giver, and (d) feel anger. Second, with regard to task-related outcomes, we extend research on trait moderators of feedback responses to the study of destructive criticism. We draw from feedback intervention theory (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996) regarding how feedback may alter the locus of attention to be either self- or task-focused, and investigate a trait that may shift one's attention to the self after destructive criticism. Specifically, we proposed that trait competitiveness—i.e. a desire to win over others—interacts with type of criticism to predict task-related outcomes. The results of two experiments—a scenario study and a behavioral experiment—provide support for our arguments.