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Overcoming Interpersonal Barriers To Improve Performance Feedback Through Expected Candor
Feedback givers have competing goals of wanting to be honest, but also maintain relationships and appear benevolent. We develop the construct of “expected candor,” as a way to elicit more concrete feedback. Expected candor licenses feedback givers to provide direct and honest input by setting out recipients’ expectations, thereby mitigating relational concerns. To test this theory, we draw on data from two years of a public sector organization’s end-of-year 360 degree feedback reviews. Across two studies (Study 1: N=26,482 reviewers; Study 2A: N = 23,404 reviewers) we demonstrate feedback-givers’ reluctance to give concrete developmental feedback, even when directly asked to do so. We also present results showing that feedback becomes more concrete when feedback givers receive a short intervention that prompts expected candor. Finally, in a third study (N=4,139 subjects) we find no evidence for relational backlash effects resulting from increased concreteness, nor to feedback elicited by the expected candor prompt. We conclude that the expected candor intervention gives organizations an easy way to promote better feedback-giving. Our findings also extend existing theoretical models on the perceived trade-off between honesty and benevolence, and add to our understanding of the broader set of relational concerns in feedback processes.