Theses Doctoral

Development Direction Predicts Asymmetric Transmission and Acceptance of Feedback

Wazlawek, Abbie S.

The following Chapters present an account and evidence that development direction, a previously unexplored characteristic of performance feedback, reveals asymmetries in the transmission and acceptance of feedback. In short, I argue that feedback advising development in the direction of a decrease (e.g., “be less assertive,” “stop overanalyzing decisions”) is less likely to be transmitted by feedback providers, and less likely to be acted upon by feedback recipients, than feedback advising development in the direction of an increase (e.g., “be more assertive,” “analyze decisions more”). In a series of studies concerning roleplay negotiations, leadership effectiveness, and workplace behavior, I find people are more likely to transmit and embrace feedback to “do more” rather than “do less.” The first Chapter focuses on the behavioral dimension of assertiveness. Especially in workplace and negotiation contexts, assertiveness can lead to harmful consequences if over-or under-exhibited. Thus, breakdowns in the transmission and acceptance of assertiveness feedback, whether it directs the target to “be more assertive” or “be less assertive”, are consequential and merit special attention. The scope of the second Chapter is broadened beyond assertiveness, gauging feedback of opposing development directions that pertains to a wider set of behavioral dimensions. Here, the account in Chapter I is revisited and two processes that may underlie the asymmetric effect are tested. In short, Chapters I and II present evidence that not all “bad news” in feedback is treated equally. Instead, “do less” (vs. “do more”) feedback is especially susceptible to communication failures. Chapter III contains an overarching discussion of the findings as well as theoretical implications for the feedback and assertiveness literatures and practical suggestions for improving workplace development dynamics. Finally, additional questions are addressed in the Appendix with further analyses of data presented in Chapters I and II as well as examination of additional data.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Ames, Daniel R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 15, 2016