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Effects of feedback motives on inquiry and performance

Jason Dahling (Department of Psychology, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey, United States.)
Alison L O'Malley (Department of Psychology, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.)
Samantha L Chau (Department of Talent Management, Novo Nordisk Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, United States.)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine how two motives for feedback-seeking behavior, the instrumental and image enhancement motives, impact the feedback-seeking process and supervisor ratings of task performance.


Correlational data were collected from supervisor-subordinate dyads and analysed with path analysis.


Results show that perceptions of a supportive supervisory feedback environment are associated with both higher instrumental and image enhancement motives. The instrumental motive fully mediates the relationship between the feedback environment and feedback-seeking behavior. However, the positive effect of feedback-seeking behavior on task performance ratings made by supervisors is only significant when the image enhancement motive is low. Contrary to expectations, no direct or moderating effects were found for the instrumental motive on performance ratings.

Practical implications

These results demonstrate that many instances of feedback-seeking behavior are motivated by a desire to enhance one’s public image, and that high image enhancers can earn strong performance ratings even with low feedback-seeking behavior. Overall, the findings highlight the critical importance of measuring employees’ motives in research on feedback and performance management.


This is the first study to explicitly examine how motives mediate and moderate the relationships between feedback environment perceptions, feedback-seeking behavior, and performance in the workplace. The findings suggest that future research on feedback-seeking behavior should measure and model the effects of motives on feedback processes.



The authors thank Paul E. Levy and Frederik Anseel for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Dahling, J., O'Malley, A.L. and Chau, S.L. (2015), "Effects of feedback motives on inquiry and performance", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 199-215.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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