Critical upward feedback in organisations: Processes, problems and implications for communication management

Dennis Tourish (Professor of Communication at Aberdeen Business School at the Robert Gordon University)
Paul Robson (Reader in Economics at Aberdeen Business School at the Robert Gordon University)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 31 December 2003

Abstract

Given that staff‐management relationships are a core concern for communication management, upward feedback is emerging as a key theme in the literature. It is, however, most often associated with upward appraisal. This study looks at upward feedback in a more general sense, and in particular at whether such feedback is critical or positive in its response to senior management decisions. One hundred and forty‐six staff within a health care organisation (HCO) were surveyed, using a depth communication audit instrument. Fifteen staff were also interviewed in detail, and six focus groups each composed of six people were also convened. The results indicated that informal upward feedback was mostly absent; that where it occurred the feedback was inaccurately positive; that senior managers were unaware of such distortions and unwilling to contemplate the possibility that they did indeed exist; that they had an exaggerated impression of how much upward feedback they received; and that they discouraged the transmission of critical feedback. The implications for the practice of communication management, the development of upward influence within organisations and general theoretical reasons for distortions in feedback processes are considered.

Keywords

Citation

Dennis Tourish and Paul Robson (2003) "Critical upward feedback in organisations: Processes, problems and implications for communication management", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 150-167

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540410807628

Publisher

:

MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 2003, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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