Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Fuel for Litigation? Links between Procedural Justice and Multisource Feedback

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Fuel for Litigation? Links between Procedural Justice and Multisource Feedback

Article excerpt

Approximately 40 percent of organizations use multisource feedback (MSF) in some capacity (Bracken et al., 2001). Flatter organizations, formalized leadership development efforts, and cross-functional work arrangements have contributed to the prevalence of MSF processes (Green, 2002; Toegel and Conger, 2003). Rather than performance assessment resting solely with the supervisor, MSF (also referred to as 360-degree feedback) prescribes having multiple sources (e.g., direct reports, customers, peers, supervisor, self) provide performance feedback to employees on behaviors or competencies important for organizational success (Bracken and Timmreck, 1999; Tornow, 1993). The hallmark of MSF, and an obvious departure from traditional performance appraisal, is incorporation of data from these different perspectives. The feedback from multiple constituencies assists the feedback recipient with performance improvement efforts and may also serve as input to organizational decision making, such as staffing, compensation, and succession planning (Bracken and Timmreck, 1999).

Given its increasing administrative use (Toegel and Conger, 2003), one would expect MSF to be examined with the same legal scrutiny as that given to traditional performance appraisal processes. Several published studies have offered guidelines for appraisal components that the courts tend to review favorably (e.g., Werner and Bolino, 1997). However, this work is just now extending to multisource feedback (Bernardin and Tyler, 2001). Thus, the existing literature is lean in regards to the legal fortitude of MSF and remains mostly silent concerning areas that are unique to these programs. Furthermore, to our knowledge, no research has examined how aspects of a multisource feedback process may affect employee attitudes about litigation, most notably intention to file an employment discrimination claim against the company in the first place. This article conceptually explores the relationship between multisource feedback and litigation intentions, rather than judicial decisions. We incorporate the literature relating to procedural justice as the primary theoretical basis for our propositions. As indicated in Figure 1, we propose that design features or decisions made about an MSF system influence employee perceptions of procedural justice, subsequently affecting employee litigation intentions.



A typical MSF process involves choosing raters, gathering feedback (usually through a confidential or an anonymous questionnaire format), compiling the results, and providing an integrative report to the feedback recipient, with average results reported by item or construct for each rater group. Self-ratings and those from other rater groups typically diverge (see Harris and Schaubroeck (1988) for a meta-analytic review). Presumably, these discrepancies increase feedback recipients' self-awareness, enabling them to identify opportunities for positive changes in their behavior.

Research has investigated the extent to which discrepancies between self-ratings and ratings from other sources (e.g., supervisor, peers, subordinates) influence the behavior of feedback recipients. Evidence suggests that leaders who overestimate their behavior in reference to their subordinates (overraters) improve their leadership behavior as measured by follow-up performance ratings made by subordinates (Atwater et al., 1995; Johnson and Ferstl, 1999). Overraters also tend to decrease their self-ratings to better align with their subordinates' ratings (Atwater et al., 1995, 2000; Johnson and Ferstl, 1999) and seek out additional feedback from their subordinates (Waldman and Atwater, 2001). In contrast, leaders rating themselves lower relative to their subordinates (underraters) tend to retain their current behaviors, but increase their self-ratings to be more consistent with those made by their subordinates (Atwater et al. …

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