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“Catch me if you can?”: A psychological analysis of managers' feedback seeking

Lynne J. Millward (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Maxwell Asumeng (School of Psychology, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana)
Almuth McDowall (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 4 May 2010

2694

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to locate managerial feedback‐seeking in a self‐regulation model in which self‐motivational considerations are uppermost. It seeks to use a qualitative psychological approach to address the question of when, what, how, from whom and why is feedback sought in a performance contingent managerial setting.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Kelly's Repertory Grid technique, ten managers reflected systematically on their feedback seeking in an organizational context. A grounded theory framework was used to identify higher‐order cross‐case constructs.

Findings

Managers sought performance feedback when they perceived uncertainty and difficulty in the pursuit of their managerial functions and were minded of their need to develop their management skills. Consistent with the instrumental model, feedback seeking was highly goal‐oriented and self‐affirmative in pursuit of increased managerial competence. However, the finding that adds most to the understanding on both an empirical and theoretical level is in showing how managers sought their feedback remotely, and from largely external sources, to reconcile development needs with self‐protective considerations (i.e. image and ego‐costs) in relation to subordinates and peers. These findings have implications for understanding feedback seeking as a multi‐dimensional highly self‐motivated process.

Research limitations/implications

Qualitative research uses small samples and this limits their empirical generalizability; however, the paper's findings link with previous work indicating potential for hypothesis generation and theoretical development.

Originality/value

Questions are raised about whether managers feel able to seek performance feedback for learning and development purposes, without feeling threatened in their capability and worth as managers. The paper argues that the environment most conducive to feedback seeking is one in which managers feel “psychologically safe” rather than defensive about their capability.

Keywords

Citation

Millward, L.J., Asumeng, M. and McDowall, A. (2010), "“Catch me if you can?”: A psychological analysis of managers' feedback seeking", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 384-407. https://doi.org/10.1108/02683941011035296

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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