Why Feedback Doesn’t Work
Are you feeling up-to-date with the latest research on effective performance management? Try this simple quiz.
True or false? To perform at their best, employees . . .
- Need to understand the dynamics of their industry and their company’s strategy and competitive positioning within that industry.
- Need to know the specific behaviors that they have to demonstrate on the job in order to implement their company’s strategy.
- Need real-time information about how well their company is doing.
- Need timely and specific feedback about how well they are performing and where they have opportunities to improve.
- Get their best feedback from their immediate manager.
All Done? Check Your Answers
The correct answers are: 1) True. 2) True. 3) True. 4) True. 5) False.
Wait a minute – number 5 is false? Feedback from management is practically a sacred principle of modern management practice. How can this be?
It turns out that each of us has a self-image that we’ve created and refined over a lifetime of experience. When we experience something that conflicts with this self-image – for example, negative feedback from our manager – it creates internal conflict which psychologists call cognitive dissonance. In response to this feedback, we could learn new skills or change our behavior. But we usually don’t. Instead, we maintain our self-image by “rationalizing away the feedback, and either attributing the cause of the performance failure to external factors out of our control or discounting the source of the feedback.”
That’s the conclusion of Charles S. Jacobs in his book Management Rewired – Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science.
Jacobs emphasizes that employees do need timely and specific feedback. “It just can’t come from the manager. Instead, managers will need to install systems to provide employees with an objective source of feedback.”
So, companies that are seeking high performance will need to find an objective source of feedback. It looks like performance management applications will continue to be critical for organizational success!