Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth


July 30th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I have been focussed on performance evaluation today.  In practice they are important for administrative reasons (documenting performance, assigning merit increases etc.) and employee development.  One of the main factors that interferes with the effectiveness of the appraisal is justice.  Does the employee believe that the procedures used to evaluate and the outcome of the evaluation are fair and unbiased?  Unfortunately, the answer to this question is often ‘no.’  Research has found that perceptions of justice affect how an individual interprets the information they receive within their evaluation, often making the feedback ineffective.  While research has been focussed on identifying the source of the problem (e.g., rating inaccuracy, problems with the scales, rater bias), less effort has been made in identifying methods for enhancing performance.  Any solution is going to have to address the main drawbacks of feedback – the potential damage that negative feedback can have on performance and the potential of feedback to demotivate, rather than motivate, employees.  


Avi Kluger has pioneered work on a technique called feedforward.  This technique encourages managers to focus on future performance rather than past mistakes.  It moves away from a remedial model of performance management to a developmental model; a focus on strengths rather than weaknesses.  In part, it is based on the premise that people do not know what to do with negative feedback.  Even in cases when they are given some direction for improvement, it can be difficult to internalize the direction.  Similar to when you receive negative information from a physician, it becomes difficult to focus on treatment when the news itself is difficult to hear.  Feedforward works around these types of issues. The basic procedure follows.  


In phase 1, the introduction, the interviewee is asked to think only of past positive experiences. In the second phase, the interviewee is asked to tell a story of a particular time at work when he or she felt full of life and energized.  The individual is then asked to identify the “peak” of the story.  In the fourth phase, the interviewer asks the individual to describe the conditions that surrounded this success.  Finally, the feedforward question is asked: “Recall the conditions that allowed you to feel alive at work. Consider these conditions as road signs or a beacon that shows you how to flourish at work. To what extent are your current behaviors at work or your plans for the immediate future taking you closer to, or further away from, the conditions that allowed you to feel full of life at work?”


I am in the process of drafting a manuscript on this topic.  I will post it hear once I have a working paper.


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