Organizational Consultation XXIV: Feedback (Part One)
Function Two: Development/Training
Appreciative feedback can serve as a basis for planning many forms of employee training and education, whether the feedback is given to an individual employee or to an entire program unit. This is where the fourth appreciative strategy (development) links directly with this sixth strategy (feedback). The linkage between development and feedback is particularly strong if the appreciative feedback system brings together observation, diagnosis, training and coaching. An appreciative feedback system will evaluate only those behaviors, skills, attitudes and bases of knowledge for which the organization can provide developmental resources.
Don’t evaluate what you can’t help improve—this is a mantra of appreciation. If developmental resources are not provided, then the evaluation becomes a destructive tool that punishes an employee or program unit rather than pointing the way to improvement. If I have been told that I must improve in a specific area but have not been given an opportunity to receive training and follow-up coaching in this area, then I have two alternatives—neither of which is very constructive. I can dismiss the feedback as trivial or biased. I risk appearing defensive and resistant to change if I take this stance. Alternatively, I can accept the feedback as accurate and important, and then choose to live with the depressing prospect of continuing negative feedback and little personal improvement.
Both a deficit and an appreciative approach to feedback can serve this second function. Deficit-based feedback indicates what is missing, hence points directly to the areas where training and education should be engaged. However, a deficit-based feedback system provides little information with regard to the reason that an employee is not already skillful or knowledgeable in a particular area or about the reason that this specific skill or knowledge will be of benefit to the employee in their current job and work setting:[v]
. . . [deficit] feedback may indicate the need to improve performance but not provide a sufficiently clear and detailed path to improvement. If reviewers fail to specify in detail particular developmental needs and action to be taken in pursuit of them, employees may be left more frustrated and confused than they were prior to feedback.