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Abstract

Delivering negative performance feedback is inevitable in the workplace. However, recipients may feel uncomfortable and behave defensively, and may be unwilling to accept negative feedback mainly because they fear losing face. Such unproductive responses are heightened when negative feedback is delivered through computer-mediated communication (CMC) channels in which many nonverbal cues in face-to-face communication cannot be used to alleviate the concerns of losing face. This study examines the effectiveness of emoticons, which are designed as surrogates for facial expressions in CMC environments, in conveying social and emotional signals of the feedback provider. Specifically, based on the feedback process model and the dissonance reduction theory, this study investigates the differing effects of two types of emoticons (i.e., liking and disliking ones) on the acceptance of negative feedback by considering feedback specificity as a contingent factor. Our results suggest that using liking emoticons increases perceived good intention of the feedback provider and decreases perceived feedback negativity when the feedback is specific; however, it has no significant effect for unspecific feedback. By contrast, our results suggest that using disliking emoticons decreases perceived good intention of the feedback provider and increases perceived feedback negativity when the feedback is unspecific, whereas such effects are not significant for specific feedback. In turn, both perceived good intention of the feedback provider and perceived feedback negativity affect acceptance of the negative feedback.

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