Performance feedback takes many forms. All of us are familiar with the “dreaded” annual performance review. However, the performance review need not be so dreaded by either the supervisor or employee, particularly when there has been open communication, and informal feedback has been given assertively, yet constructively routinely between formal review occasions. Additionally, while traditional wisdom suggests “blanket” pearls of wisdom for supervisors, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach might not be the most appropriate for performance feedback.
Swift and Peterson examined the effectiveness of performance feedback when considering personality and task demands. The authors state that although performance feedback is widely employed as a means to improve motivation, the efficacy and reliability of performance feedback is often obscured by individual differences and situational variables. The study explored how Big Five personality traits (conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness) moderate the motivational impact of false positive and negative feedback on easy, neutral, and frustrating tasks, respectively. They found that individuals who are both conscientious and neurotic appear particularly sensitive to task difficulty, becoming significantly more motivated by negative feedback on easy tasks and de-motivated by negative feedback on frustrating tasks. In other words, perfectionists demonstrate an increased sensitivity to negative feedback. Moreover, this sensitivity is exacerbated by task difficulty, as perfectionists experience more negative affect after negative feedback on difficult versus easy tasks. The research also found positive feedback to significantly motivate agreeable people working on easy tasks, but not on difficult tasks. Agreeable people tend to spend the most time on all 3 types of tasks.
As stated in previous Tips, the manager does not necessarily motivate, but rather creates an environment conducive to self-motivation. The pharmacy manager cannot possibly retain all of the sociology study findings that come out on a routine basis. They can, however, take from this and other studies to frame tasks around their value to the organization rather than their level of difficulty during employee goal-setting. Providing direction, assurance, and boosting self-efficacy would appear to be winning ways for the manager, even while bearing in mind that situational leadership is called for depending on the make-up of employee team members and the type of work they have in front of them.
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1Swift P, Peterson JB. Improving the effectiveness of performance feedback by considering personality traits and task demands. PLoS One. 2018; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197810.