AN UPWARD FEEDBACK FIELD EXPERIMENT: SUPERVISORS' CYNICISM, REACTIONS, AND COMMITMENT TO SUBORDINATES

Authors


  • We thank Manny London, Jim Smither, and Fran Yammarino for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

and requests for reprints should be addressed to Leanne E. Atwater, Arizona State University West, 4701 West Thunderbird, PO 37100, Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100; leanne.atwater@asu.edu

Abstract

A field experiment was conducted to examine outcomes associated with an upward feedback program in a policing agency. Experimental groups included 110 supervisors who were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: (a) a feedback group in which supervisors and subordinates completed surveys and received feedback at two time periods, or (b) a survey-only group in which supervisors and subordinates completed surveys at Times 1 and 2, but supervisors received feedback only at Time 2. Results showed no significant improvement for the feedback or survey-only group with regard to subordinate ratings of leadership. However, a significant decrease in self-rated leadership scores occurred between Time 1 and Time 2 for the supervisors receiving feedback at Time 1, and no such changes were observed for supervisors who were only surveyed at Time 1. In addition, Time 1 to Time 2 leadership change was predicted by organizational cynicism and the extent to which the recipient reacts positively to upward feedback and takes steps to improve. Thus, individual attitudes appear to be relevant to behavior change following upward feedback. In addition, leadership measured at Time 1 predicted supervisors' commitment to their subordinates at Time 2 for the feedback group, but not for the survey-only group. Such results demonstrate that outcomes in addition to performance, such as commitment to subordinates, need to be considered in the implementation of upward feedback programs.

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