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The paradoxical consequences of leader feedback seeking for subordinates: a theoretical framework

Sheldon Carvalho (Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management Area, Jindal Global Business School, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India)
Fallan Kirby Carvalho (School of Management and Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India)
Charles Carvalho (School of Management and Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 14 December 2021

Issue publication date: 3 February 2023

506

Abstract

Purpose

Scholars in the feedback seeking domain have predominantly focused on subordinate feedback seeking. The authors still know very little about feedback seeking when the leader is the “seeker” and subordinates are the “targets” of such seeking. This paper aims to develop a theoretical framework that explores the potential benefits and costs of leader feedback seeking, specifically, leader feedback inquiry for subordinates.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors draw upon the transactional theory of stress to propose a framework in which leader feedback inquiry influences two subordinate behaviors (in-role and proactive skill development behaviors) via appraisal processes (challenge and threat appraisals). With insights from regulatory focus theory, the authors propose that individual characteristics, namely, the regulatory focus of subordinates (promotion and prevention focus), determine the appraisals of leader feedback inquiry, subsequently influencing subordinate behavioral outcomes.

Findings

The authors contend that leader feedback inquiry can be appraised as a challenge which then produces beneficial subordinate behaviors (i.e. higher in-role and proactive skill development behaviors). However, leader feedback inquiry can also be appraised as a threat which then elicits detrimental subordinate behaviors (i.e. lower in-role and proactive skill development behaviors). The authors then argue that subordinates with a high promotion focus appraise leader feedback inquiry as challenging, thereby enabling beneficial behaviors. Subordinates with a high prevention focus, by contrast, appraise leader feedback inquiry as threatening, thereby prompting detrimental behaviors.

Originality/value

The authors shed light on the benefits and costs of leader feedback seeking for subordinates. The resulting framework underlines the importance of including individual characteristics and cognitive appraisal processes in research investigating the effects of leader feedback inquiry on subordinate outcomes.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Editor, Prof Thomas Garavan and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Citation

Carvalho, S., Carvalho, F.K. and Carvalho, C. (2023), "The paradoxical consequences of leader feedback seeking for subordinates: a theoretical framework", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 47 No. 1/2, pp. 203-222. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-07-2021-0101

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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