Organizational Consultation XXIV: Feedback (Part One)

Organizational Consultation XXIV: Feedback (Part One)

Function Twelve: Modeling

Perhaps the most important function of an appreciative feedback process, when it is performed at the top of an organization, is its effect on all other parts of the organization. The high level executive or leader of a high status program unit who willingly participates in a feedback process will serve as a model and incentive for appreciative feedback processes being enacted by subordinates, peers and other program units in the organization. The academic dean at a small liberal arts college in New England was one of the first participants in an appreciative, self-evaluative process that led to the creation of professional growth contracts for administrators and faculty. The success of this process at this college is due, at least in part, to the fact that this academic dean participated in it as a high level administrator. A staff member at this small liberal arts college who sees that a key administrator is undergoing systematic feedback is less likely to resist her own evaluation—provided the evaluation is appreciative in nature for both the dean and faculty member.  If the evaluation focuses on deficits, then the administrator is modeling nothing more than defensive bravery: “See, I can take it, so can you!”

I have worked with many organizations in recent years that have engaged actively in 360-Degree feedback processes. While this process can be quite constructive, it can also be very destructive, if deficit based. In many cases, the chief administrator of the organization doesn’t engage in the deficit-based 360-Degree feedback process because he believes it will be of much benefit to him. Rather, he undergoes this painful ordeal because, in some way, it shows other members of the organization that he is not afraid to receive their critical comments. In addition, he may be demonstrating to other members of the organization that he is immune to their “ill-informed” or “spiteful” comments. Nothing changes. Positions and perspectives become even more entrenched. The 360-Degree feedback process becomes tainted for everyone in the organization, given that the CEO is modeling the misuse of this feedback. Typically, this misuse doesn’t stop the process. Everyone is required to participate in this highly destructive and ultimately ineffective trial by fire. “If I must go through this gauntlet, then, by Jove, all my subordinates must do through it too!” And it continues on and on . . .

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[i] Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins. Abolishing Performance Appraisals. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2000, p. 130.

[ii] Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

[iii] This list of functions is based on more detailed descriptions and discussions regarding the functions of feedback and performance appraisals that can be found in William Genova, Marjorie Madoff, Robert Chin, and George Thomas, Mutual Benefit Evaluation of Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing. Co., 1976, Chapter 3; James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998; and Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins. Abolishing Performance Appraisals. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2000.

[iv] Edward Suchman. Evaluative Research. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1967, p. 177.

[v] Paul Squires and Seymour Adler, “Linking Appraisals to Individual Development and Training,” in James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, p. 486.

[vi] Richard Reilly and Jack McGourty, “Performance Appraisal in Team Settings,” in James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, p. 263.

[vii] Robert Cardy, “Performance Appraisal in a Quality Context: A New Look at an Old Problem,” in James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, pp. 136-137.

[viii] Robert Cardy, “Performance Appraisal in a Quality Context: A New Look at an Old Problem,” in James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, p. 136.

[ix] Robert Cardy, “Performance Appraisal in a Quality Context: A New Look at an Old Problem,” in James W. Smither (ed.). Performance Appraisal: State of the Art in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998, p. 153.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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