Performance Management

Feedback Seeking and Job Performance

Feedback about job performance is important for organizations and the people who work in them, as employees who receive constructive feedback tend to have higher job satisfaction, better understanding of job requirements, and greater job performance. Understanding how feedback influences job performance allows organizations the opportunity to create an environment that is most conducive to utilizing feedback.

The Context for Feedback

Three factors that contribute to the context of an organization’s feedback environment:
  1. Perception of the feedback environment. An organization’s feedback environment can be perceived as positive (i.e., seeking feedback is acceptable and/or encouraged) or negative (i.e., seeking feedback is unacceptable and/or discouraged). Feedback seeking increases when employee perceptions of a positive feedback environment are high.
  2. Who is providing the feedback. Feedback that comes from supervisors, who have influence over ratings and rewards, can have different effects on job performance than does feedback that comes from coworkers who  generally have less influence over ratings and rewards.
  3. Effort used to obtain feedback. The more effort is needed to obtain feedback from coworkers (e.g., because the coworker is difficult to contact), the less likely someone is to try to get the feedback. This is true even if coworkers are otherwise supportive of feedback.

The Importance of Role Clarity

Role clarity refers to how sure an employee is of his or her role in the organization, including what their duties, expectations, and job requirements are. Employees with greater role clarity better understand their jobs and the expectations of them and are able to work more effectively than employees with less role clarity regarding their place within the organization.

Performance Outcomes and Feedback Effects

Employees’ task and contextual performance (e.g., volunteering to help coworkers) increase when they seek feedback more. Feedback seeking increases an employee’s role clarity, which in turn leads to the employee performing more effectively.

Implications for Practice

The findings of this study provide guidance on a number of practical suggestions.
  • Increase perceptions of a supportive feedback environment that is maintained by supervisors and coworkers.
  • Encourage employees to seek feedback from supervisors and each other when needed.
  • Reduce barriers that make seeking feedback difficult, such as limited communication opportunities between employees and coworkers/supervisors.
  • Maximize role clarity to help employees stay aware of how to do their jobs most effectively.
Actively promoting feedback seeking makes employees more likely to find out how they can improve their performance by helping them better understand their roles. Organizations should consider how developing a positive feedback environment, including feedback seeking encouragement and ease of access, can work for them.

Interpretation by:

Donnie Johnson

The DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Whitaker, B.G., Dahling, J.J., & Levy, P. (2007). The development of a feedback environment and role clarity model of job performance. Journal of Management, 33, 570-591.