Organizational Consultation XXIV: Feedback (Part One)
Function Ten: Perception Checks
Several additional benefits are often found when specific kinds of feedback systems are used. First, either deficit or appreciative feedback can help those being evaluated determine whether or not they understand the perceptions that other people have of their performance or the performance of their program unit. A feedback system can be designed so that the employee or leader of the program unit being appraised is asked to predict how other people will appraise their work. A comparison between the employee’s or leader’s expectations and the actual results obtained reveals the extent to which the employee or program leader is aware of the perceptions held by other people. If the predictions of the employee or leader are too far off, the person being appraised might wish to reexamine and modify ways in which feedback is obtained or interpreted in her workplace or program unit.
While either a deficit or appreciative feedback system enables one to check their perceptions, only an appreciative approach encourages one to do something about the outcomes of this perception check that is constructive. An appreciative approach encourages dialogue regarding the discrepancy, whereas a deficit approach tends to encourage defensiveness and a desire to correct or at least argue about the discrepant perceptions. When feedback incorporates a commitment to viewing all performances by an employee or program unit within its own distinct context, then the perceptions of other people regarding one’s performance will inevitably yield a clearer and fuller understanding of the context itself. As a result, in an appreciative organization, the diverse and sometimes divergent perceptions of other employees contribute to new learning regarding the nature and impact of one’s performance in the organization.
Function Eleven: Role Clarification
Appreciative feedback can help an employee and his supervisor to continually redefine his role in the organization. If the criteria for evaluating work performance are fully specified and applied in a thoughtful and appreciative manner, the subordinate and supervisor will often become clearer about the subordinate’s functions and responsibilities. The periodic clarification and revision of roles that often attend systematic and appreciative feedback is particularly appropriate in an organization that frequently experiences change. Appreciative feedback is also particularly valuable when the recipient of this feedback serves in a highly complex position in that organization and if she must frequently meet changing needs and demands. People who face these challenging conditions certainly do not need a deficit-based analysis. They need to know what they are to do—not what they are not to do. An appreciative approach is welcomed and needed.