AuthorKevin Nelson, Marcia Simmering

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Feedback is the return of information about the result of a process, activity, or experience, usually relating to an individual's performance within a company. Feedback can be upward or downward in the organizational structure. Upward feedback is the process by which superiors or management are rated by employees or subordinates, while downward feedback is the flow of information from superiors or management to employees or subordinates.

In the past, feedback has been gathered from sources such as subordinates, peers, and internal or external customers. This is referred to as multi-source feedback when evaluations are collected from more than one source. In recent years, the majority of feedback has been collected for developmental purposes, but it seems that feedback is being used increasingly more in administrative decisions, including compensation and promotion. Such feedback is also being employed as a component of executive appraisals.

The impact of upward feedback is debatable, as is whether managers' responses to feedback are related to performance improvements over time. The major limitation of much research concerning feedback was that no one had examined whether managers' responses to such feedback were associated with performance improvement. It had been shown in the past that feedback alone was not the cause of behavior change; instead it was the goals that people set in response to feedback. A recent five-year study of upward feedback

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was conducted to answer some of these questions. The research covered more than 250 managers who received upward feedback annually over the five years. The results show that managers who were initially rated as being poor or moderate registered significant improvements in upward feedback ratings over the next five-year period. The results also show that managers who participated in discussions about their upward feedback improved more than managers who did not. It further showed that managers improved more in years when they discussed the previous year's feedback than in years when they did not. This study is important because it shows what managers do with upward feedback is related to its benefits.

In the past, it has been assumed that discrepancies between self-ratings and subordinate ratings raise self-awareness, highlight gaps between goals and job performance, and suggest areas of needed improvement. According to the self-consistency theory, when...

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