Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Taking Feedback-Seeking to the Next "Level": Organizational Structure and Feedback-Seeking Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Taking Feedback-Seeking to the Next "Level": Organizational Structure and Feedback-Seeking Behavior

Article excerpt

The importance of proactively seeking feedback, rather than passively waiting to receive this information from others, has been well demonstrated by research (Ashford and Cummings, 1983; Ashford et al., 2003). Feedback-seeking increases job performance, job satisfaction, organizational citizenship behaviors, and participation in upward appraisal programs, and decreases turnover intentions (Kudisch el al., 2006; Morrison, 1993; Morrison and Weldon, 1990; Whitaker el al, 2007). People who seek feedback are viewed more positively by others (Ashford and Northcraft, 1992) especially when they ask for negative information (Ashford and Tsui, 1991). Williams el al. commented that "in the feedback area, perhaps the most dominant theme of the past 15 years has been the perspective introduced by Ashford and Cummings (1983) which suggested that individuals are active seekers of feedback information" (1999: 969).

Given the benefits of seeking feedback, researchers have strived to uncover the antecedents of this behavior in the hope of promoting it in the workplace. Virtually all of the predictors identified, however, have been individual-level variables such as self-esteem, goal orientation, and tolerance for ambiguity Very little is known about other levels of analysis within which feedback-seeking is nested and which may also impact this behavior. These other levels include the group, the subunit, the organization, the interorganizational network, and the environment (Hitt el al., 2007). Some notable exceptions are Miller and Karakowsky's (2005) study on the influence of a group's gender composition (i.e., group level) and a few studies that have examined the impact of cross-culture (i.e., environment level) (e.g., Morrison el al., 2004). As Hitt el al. commented, "Most management problems involve multilevel phenomena, yet most management research uses a single level of analysis. A micro or a macro lens alone yields incomplete understanding at either level." (2007: 1385) Feedback-seeking behavior is no stranger to this criticism.

The purpose of this research is to increase the understanding of feedback-seeking behavior from the perspective of other levels of analysis by examining the influence of organizational structure (i.e., organization level). Literature reviews (e.g., Berger and Cummings, 1979; Dalton et al., 1980; Porter and Lawler, 1969) have summarized the impressive effects organizational structure can have on people's attitudes and behaviors. Despite these impacts, only one structural dimension--centralization--has been formally examined with respect to feedback-seeking behavior. Gupta et al. (1999) sought to identify the task and organizational context factors that influence multinational subsidiary presidents in a host country to seek feedback from the headquarters in their home country. Of the eight predictors the researchers considered, centralization was one. The researchers hypothesized that centralization should increase feedback-seeking behavior; however, results of their 374-respondent survey did not show a relationship.

This research extends Gupta et al.'s (1999) study in the following ways. First, it examines four additional dimensions of structure: routinization, standardization, span of control, and formalization. Second, it retests Gupta et al.'s (1999) hypothesis regarding the effects of centralization. Third, it utilizes a sample that is more representative of the general population. Fourth, whereas Gupta et al. (1999) combined feedback-seeking from supervisors and feedback-seeking from coworkers into one scale, this research separates them out, giving greater specificity to the findings. Fifth, this research examines feedback-seeking from documentation, a source of feedback that Gupta et al. (1999) did not consider. Sixth, whereas Gupta et at. (1999) combined several types of feedback information into one scale, this research focuses exclusively on the seeking of performance feedback, also giving greater specificity to the findings. …

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