Employees often seek diagnostic information to help them assess their own performance, and feedback seeking is an important part of this. However, research on feedback seeking has shown that employees with high self-efficacy (i.e., those with high levels of confidence in their abilities) sometimes fail to take advice, even when it could help them improve their performance. This is primarily because they tend to rely on their own judgment of how they are performing and therefore do not consider the potential value of seeking feedback from others.
One potential way to mitigate this tendency is through perspective taking. Perspective taking is a phenomenon that makes people step outside the limitations of their internal, and often positively biased, sense of self. It refers to the active process of understanding the thoughts and emotions of others and considering alternative ideas and viewpoints. This reduces the reliance on self-centred thinking. Recent research suggests that unless people with high self-efficacy engage in perspective taking and go beyond the subjective evaluation of their own performance, they may not actively ask for feedback from others.
SELF-EFFICACY, FEEDBACK SEEKING, AND PERSPECTIVE TAKING
The authors of this study (Sherf & Morrison, 2019) argue that perspective taking may alter the relationship between self-efficacy and feedback seeking. Further, the authors suggest that the aforementioned impact of perspective taking may only exist when people recognize the potential value of seeking feedback from others. Their findings were derived from a series of five studies conducted on a sample of employees across different industries. The studies utilized multiple methodologies, including surveys, online experiments and a scenario task, which examined the extent to which people’s self-efficacy is related to their asking for feedback from managers, peers, and employees.
The results of the studies supported the authors’ hypothesis that people with high self-efficacy are unlikely to engage in perspective taking if they fail to recognize its value or see it as useful. They found that without perspective taking, self-efficacy was related negatively to feedback seeking, meaning higher self-efficacy was related to decreased feedback seeking. However, when people were specifically asked to engage in perspective taking, or showed strong perspective taking tendencies, this negative relationship either disappeared or was reversed.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The authors suggest a number of implications for employees, managers, and organizations. First, employees with too much self-efficacy may not accurately assess their own performance. For organizations, this highlights the importance of training employees to better appreciate the usefulness of feedback. To facilitate this behavior, it might be worthwhile for organizations to reduce perceptions of the costs associated with seeking feedback, as well as actively promote the benefits of engaging in feedback seeking.
In addition, it might be helpful for organizations to include perspective taking interventions as part of employee training. This will also help increase feedback seeking in the workplace.
Sherf, E. N., & Morrison, E. W. (2019). I do not need feedback! Or do I? Self-efficacy, perspective taking, and feedback seeking. Journal of Applied Psychology, advance online publication.