Feedback Orientation, Feedback Culture, and the Longitudinal Performance Management Process

LONDON, Manuel & SMITHER, James W., «Feedback Orientation, Feedback Culture, and the Longitudinal Performance Management Process», Human Resource Management, 2002, vol. 12, p. 81-100.


1a: Feedback orientation is positively related to desire for self-awareness, self-verification, self-enhancement, openness to experience, mastery orientation, self-monitoring, and public self-consciousness.

1b: Individual levels of feedback orientation are stable over a medium time frame (several months) but shift as the individual’s experiences are shaped by the organization’s feedback culture.

2: Strong feedback cultures enhance individuals’ feedback orientation

3a: Individuals who are high in feedback orientation are more responsive to coaching.

3b: Coaching encourages feedback orientation.

4a: Critical events lead individuals to recognize or seek feedback and to judge their own capabilities and performance.

4b: Negative critical events enhance performance when they help pinpoint ineffective task behaviors and suggest new, more effective task behaviors. Negative critical events diminish performance when they focus attention or blame on the individual as a person and cause the individual to question his self-confidence.

4c: Positive critical events enhance performance when they help pinpoint specific effective behaviors and competencies and provide directions for new learning. However, positive critical events may backlash when they blind the individual to risks or situational changes in the future.

5a: Over time, positive reactions and emotions following feedback lead to a sense of optimism and a will to do better, and negative reactions and emotions lead to a sense of failure and frustration.

5b: Positive feedback orientation helps the individual control and channel emotional reactions from feedback to focus on its behavioral implications.

5c: Coaching and other forms of support help individuals deals with their emotional response to feedback, allowing them to concentrate on its behavioral implications.

6: Individuals will process feedback more deeply, find more personal meaning in the feedback, and make internal attributions that lead to goal setting when they are high in feedback orientation and the organization has a strong feedback culture.

7: Goal setting leads to behavior change and seeking feedback on the quality of that change, especially when the individual has a positive feedback orientation and the organization has a strong feedback culture.

8a: Feedback is attended to less when the individual faces other, especially conflicting, feedback and demands inside and outside work.

8b: Over time, feedback orientation and feedback culture are mutually reinforcing, each strengthening, or in some cases diminishing, the other.

Feedback Orientation

A construct consisting of multiple dimensions that work together additively to determine an individual’s overall receptivity to feedback and the extent to which the individual welcomes guidance and coaching.

It includes :

  • Liking feedback
  • Behavioral propensity to seek feedback
  • Cognitive propensity to process feedback mindfully and deeply
  • Sensitivity to others’ view of oneself
  • A belief in the value of feedback
  • Feeling accountable to act on the feedback

Feedback Culture

Where individuals continuously receive, solicit, and use formal and informal feedback to improve their job performance.

Shaped by 3 categories of organizational practices and interventions :

  1. Enhancing the quality of feedback
  2. Emphasizing the importance of feedback in the organization
  3. Providing support for using feedback

Continuous learning is enhanced when :

  1. Team members encourage and reinforce each other’s learning
  2. The organization expects and rewards innovation
  3. The organization provides resources that enable self-development

Coaching goes beyond giving feedback.

Longitudinal Performance Management Process

Receiving feedback is not a stand-alone, one-time event but the start of a longitudinal performance management process.

Critical events

  1. Situations that are novel, unfamiliar, or different to the focal individual
  2. The individual recognizes that his behavior in this uncertain situation will have important consequences.
  3. The individual is uncertain about how to perform competently

Performance Management Cycle

Can last days, weeks or months. The relationship between receiving and using feedback is key. Reactions to feedback can’t be understood by examining a single feedback episode. Performance management cycles are linked together over time as new feedback events occur.

In three steps:

Anticipating, receiving and reacting to feedback

Feedback that is consistant with the individual’s existing image of themselves will be processed uncritically and accepted readily.

Feedback that is inconsistent with the existing image is processed mindfully (with possible interference from negative emotions). Individuals are forced to face the information and make sense of it and may try to rationalize it. Behavior-based feedback is more likely to yield improvements.

The first reaction is often emotional rather than cognitive. The stronger the initial emotional reaction, the less likely it is that individuals will process the feedback mindfully.

Processing the feedback

May last hours, days, weeks or longer.

  1. Interpreting the feedback
  2. Understanding it’s meaning and value
  3. Dealing with emotions
  4. Ultimately, believing or discounting the feedback

Accountability can cause individuals to process feedback more deeply and mindfully.

Using the feedback

Now is the time to set goals and track progress.

Feedback cycles

Many concurrent cycles may exist and the individual may favor one over another due to internal or external pressures.

HR and feedback

  1. Develop feedback orientation by explaining and demonstrating value, how it can be sought, and establishing accountability mechanisms that assess feedback use and resulting behaviour changes
  2. Build the organization’s feedback culture by affecting the quality of the feedback, the importance given to feedback in the organization, and support for the three stages of the feedback cycle
  3. Ensure that feedback is not a one-time or isolated event but part of a comprehensive performance management process that occurs over a period of years

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