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Are your employees avoiding you? Managerial Strategies to Close the Feedback Gap Juan I. Sanchez, Ph.D. Florida International University Department of Management & Int’l Business College of Business Administration. Not everyone enjoys feedback….

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Are your employees avoiding you?Managerial Strategies to Close the Feedback Gap Juan I. Sanchez, Ph.D.Florida International UniversityDepartment of Management & Int’l BusinessCollege of Business Administration

not everyone enjoys feedback
Not everyone enjoys feedback…

You have been a good horse, fast, easy to ride, but you need to work on your galloping a bit…

not everyone enjoys feedback1
Not everyone enjoys feedback…

I said “give me the feed-bag,” dummy, not “give me feedback”!

The feedback gap
  • Employees should seek feedback from managers when they perform poorly…
  • In return, managers should give constructive feedback to employees, so that they can improve their performance…

It’d be wonderful if things were this simple!


NASA engineers were engaged in an intense debate over potential wing damage from extreme heat one day before the shuttle Columbia broke up over the skies of Texas, a scenario much like the one investigators believe happened. For some still unclear reasons, the engineers never took the matter to top NASA managers.

Consider the following recent examples…

The direct subordinates of an authoritarian leader like Saddam Hussein were apparently so afraid of bringing him bad news that he did not receive accurate reports of the coalition forces’ rapid approach towards Baghdad.

In the Chinese province of Guangdong, sources have speculated that government officials interfered with information concerning the rapid spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), apparently because they might have feared their superiors’ reaction.


Managers and employees often neglect constructive exchanges leading to improved performance…

Manager suffers a sense of discomfort when giving negative feedback or a lack of tolerance for poor performance and the accompanying emotionally-charged reactions.

Employee fails to seek feedback and avoids negative feedback to preserve self-image and manage impressions on others.


A dangerous spiraling reaction…

  • Feedback gap widens as a result of a spiraling reaction where employee and supervisor reinforce and stimulate each other to neither receive nor give feedback regarding performance.
  • This spiraling reaction perpetuates a corporate culture that precludes organizational learning.
We’d like to provide an actionable roadmap towards the learning organization…
  • A healthy feedback exchange is key to the learning organization.
  • Even though the competitive advantage of the learning organization is well understood, the roadmap for creating the learning organization is still blurry.
  • Our roadmap describes the specific actions that are likely to instigate a healthy feedback exchange among managers and employees.
Both sides contribute to the feedback gap…

Manager contributions

Employee contributions

Employee contributions to the Feedback Gap: Feedback Avoiding Behavior (FAB)


“Dodging” the Feedback Bullet

Employee contributions to the Feedback Gap:

Personal cost feedback-seeking > obvious benefits

  • Threat to self-esteem.
  • Fear of appearing incompetent to boss.
  • Fear of ridicule from coworkers.
  • Fear of admitting weakness.
employee contributions to the feedback gap fab temptations
Employee contributions to the Feedback Gap:FAB Temptations
  • Desire to maintain appearance of consistency.
  • Desire to manage impressions.
  • Desire to buy time.
  • Desire to preserve the ego.
Employee contributions to the Feedback Gap:Personal factors which encourage FAB
  • Propensity to seek positive feedback.
  • Fear of negative evaluation.
  • High self-esteem.
  • High concern for public image.
  • High need for approval.
manager contributions to the feedback gap
Manager contributions to the Feedback Gap
  • Zero-Tolerant Manager
  • Low tolerance for failure.
  • Propensity to make the fundamental attribution error.
  • Tendency to react emotionally to bad news.
  • Psychologically or physically distant from employees.
manager contributions to the feedback gap1
Manager contributions to the Feedback Gap
  • Micromanager
  • Too physically close to employees.
  • Fails to delegate.
  • Obsessed with details.
  • Propensity to make the false consensus error.
  • Takes over.
  • Expert in finding fault.
manager contributions to the feedback gap2
Manager contributions to the Feedback Gap
  • Conflict Avoider
  • Delays, distorts and avoids giving feedback.
  • Uncomfortable with emotional reactions to feedback.
  • Gives employee the benefit of the doubt.
  • Nurturing style.
management strategy understand causes of poor performance
Management Strategy:Understand Causes of Poor Performance
  • Receive Attribution training.
  • Explore attribution biases.
  • Ask for employee “accounts.”
management strategy manage physical and psychological distance
Management Strategy:Manage Physical and Psychological Distance
  • Reduce physical distance to understand external causes of poor performance.
  • Increase physical distance to give decision latitude.
  • Reduce psychological distance to gain empathy and trust.
  • Increase psychological distance to gain objectivity.
management strategy engage in active listening
Management Strategy:Engage in Active Listening
  • Be fully attentive with employees when they seek feedback.
  • Express interest in employee needs.
  • Express concern for employees.
  • Verbally summarize employee concerns to ensure understanding.
  • Verbally acknowledge employee statements.
management strategy best feedback giving practices
Management Strategy:Best feedback-giving practices
  • Give task-level and motivational feedback
  • Describe poor performance in behavioral terms
  • Focus on specific, controllable behavior
  • Ask employee for improvement suggestions
  • Give negative feedback in private
  • Use effective timing
  • Compare employee performance to a standard, not to other employees
  • Use a feedback script (e.g., DASR)
management strategy develop a learning mindset
Management Strategy:Develop a “Learning” Mindset
  • Consider failure an opportunity to learn.
  • Dissect failure from a learning perspective.
  • Capture the learning.
  • Realize that failure is a by-product of risk-taking and innovation.
  • Do not tolerate scapegoating.
management strategy best feedback giving practices task or motivational level private well timed
Management Strategy:Best feedback-giving practices (Task or motivational level, private, well-timed)