Objective vs. Subjective: Definition, Traits and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 November 2022

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Understanding the difference between objective vs. subjective information can help you make more accurate assessments and analyses in the workplace. The two terms are standard in professional settings, and those who don't understand them may struggle to grasp the meaning of messages and conversations fully. If you're looking to develop your professional vocabulary and elevate your skill set, learning about these two different approaches can help you feel more comfortable with advanced language. In this article, we discuss what objective and subjective information are, the differences between the two and list some examples of each.

Objective vs. subjective

Below are definitions of objective vs. subjective information:

What is objective information?

Personal feelings, opinions or anecdotes don't influence objective information, and evidence, data and quantitative results can also support this type of information. Objective facts can play a crucial role in forming personal opinions and feelings, as individuals prefer to rely on evidence and data-backed information to inform them. Some jobs rely more on objectiveness than others, such as historians and scientists who separate their feelings from their work. For example, if a company experiences a 10% growth in revenue compared to last year, that information is objective as long as there are relevant documents to support that claim.

Objective information is different from objectives. The latter is also a noun but refers to actionable goals that an organisation sets for its employees to achieve. Individuals at work may also refer to objective information as simply objective, which is the adjective form of the word. These distinctions are common in a work environment, but it's crucial to understand the slight differences between the variations of the words, so you understand any messages.

Related: The Importance of Critical Thinking in the Workplace

What is subjective information?

Subjective information is the opposite of objective and refers to any statement that personal feelings, opinions or anecdotes have heavily influenced. Subjective information is open for personal interpretation, meaning anyone can understand the information given to them in different ways and internalise it uniquely. Qualitative data is a synonym for subjectiveness and can refer to assessments that require interpersonal factors, such as surveys, opinion pieces and personal stories. Subjective information isn't inherently incorrect because it revolves around empirical data and has a lot of value in the decision-making process of organisations.

Objective information often shapes individuals' subjective opinions as people seek to educate themselves on various topics better. Subjective information can be partially true or based on fact and evidence, but ultimately, there's a personal interpretation attached to it. The ability to differentiate and discern objective and subjective information is an essential skill in the workplace and understanding when to utilise both quantitative and qualitative reporting helps with your professional development.

How to tell objective and subjective information apart.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine the difference between objective and subjective information. There is an abundance of websites, news outlets and independent sources that might report different information or add subjective claims to topics to garner views. In the workplace, understanding the difference between objective and subjective information can help you become a reliable member of the team and contribute productively. Here are the main differences between the types of information:

Contextual clues

Context is vital to any form of communication as it helps us understand the intention and ambition behind certain information. Objective messages don't need much context, as they're based on statistics and data that people can look up and verify. When individuals disguise subjective information as objective and report it as factual, then a fact check and background research to understand the person's intentions may be necessary. Take all information with slight doubt, as it's difficult to distinguish between objective and subjective information without research and prior knowledge.

Related: Enhance Your Decision-Making with Deductive Reasoning

Proof of evidence

When presenting information in a meeting, the reporting of objective information includes quantitative measurements that employees can look up and verify. If you approach your employer and inform them that the median pay rise for your position increased by 10% since last year, you can show them job listings for positions at other companies as evidence of your information. Doing so changes your messaging from subjective, potentially emotionally biased information, to one backed by evidence and research that employers can't refute. All messages and information are significantly more convincing when supported by evidence.

Related: Thinking Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Emotional bias

When an individual reports something with emotion and passion, it may not necessarily mean that it's subjective, but there's reason to investigate and conduct your research into the matter to determine whether it's objective. Emotional reporting leads individuals to pick and choose the information that serves their cause when other evidence or sources may indicate otherwise. It isn't easy to discern subjective, emotionally charged information from objective data accurately in real-time, so it's prudent to take your time and investigate as necessary.

Metrics and KPIs

Evaluating the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) of information is the best way to judge it as objective or subjective. For example, if a manager tasks a member with completing ten pieces of paperwork, they either meet the deadline of the task or don't. It's crucial for organisations to evaluate these metrics succinctly to keep employees responsible for the work they do.

Related: How to Create KPIs to Boost Performance

Examples of objective and subjective information

The following examples can help you discern different types of messages to understand whether they're objective or subjective:

Example 1

Here's an example of subjective information:

Subjective phrase: "I don't think it's wise to invest in cryptocurrencies right now."

When people use phrases such as "I don't think", it's a key indicator that they're giving a subjective opinion on a topic. Including yourself as the subject of a message inherently makes it subjective, as you're expressing your thoughts on a topic. It's useful to collect personal thoughts and opinions when conducting qualitative surveys that aim to compile consumer sentiments. To change this subjective phrase into an objective one, you might say:

"Cryptocurrencies are currently an unwise investment choice as experts forecast the market to dip a further 20% before the end of the year."

Example 2

Here's an example of an objective phrase:

Objective phrase: "Our company has increased its yearly revenue by 10% to $15 million compared to last year."

This phrase is objective due to the presence of trackable metrics that you can look up and verify yourself. By taking a look at the company's annual financial reports and comparing it to last year's, you can verify whether the company's yearly revenue has indeed increased by 10%. The language this phrase uses indicates objectiveness, as there is a lack of conditional or modal vocabulary such as "might", "maybe" or "could". Objective phrases are concise, confident and backed by trackable metrics and evidence. Here's how you might change this phrase into a subjective one:

"Our company might increase its yearly revenue if we expand into underrepresented markets and find new audiences."

Example 3

Here's an example of a subjective claim:

Subjective phrase: "It's better to work at home than in the office."

This phrase is subjective, as it's highly susceptible to personal interpretation. The individual saying this phrase presents it as fact due to the lack of modal vocabulary and confidence in which they're presenting it, but it's ultimately their own opinion. Some people may enjoy commuting to the office and seeing their coworkers in person, whilst some may enjoy staying at home and conducting their work virtually. To change this phrase into a more objective one, you can include a specific metric, such as:

"Upon examining the results of our workplace survey, 45% of our employees stated that they enjoy working from home more than commuting to the office."

Example 4

Here's an example of an objective phrase:

Objective phrase: "Even though I don't dine in restaurants, I know that restaurants located in office districts experience a 300% increase in traffic during lunchtimes compared to off-peak hours."

This phrase may seem subjective due to the individual making themselves the subject of the message, but it's objective, as the main point is about restaurants experiencing an increase in traffic during a certain time of day. You can independently research and verify this information to discern whether it's correct. To make this phrase subjective, you can use less concrete evidence, such as:

"Even though I don't dine in restaurants, I've noticed that there are many more people at lunchtime than at 4 p.m.."

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