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Managing Feedback Addiction

News Categories: future

Last month’s BPS Birmingham Future Leadership Development workshop for emerging leaders identified who was addicted to giving feedback. Andrew Marcinko, PhD Candidate in Work and Organisational Psychology at Aston Business School, explained why ‘feedback addiction’ has become a common habit and how to overcome it.

In fast-paced, high stress business environments it can feel appropriate to focus less on formal quarterly appraisals and more on a ‘daily routine’ of giving the team feedback. This is believed to be more motivating because it encourages self-assessment and self-correction to rectify processes that went prevented achieving goals, but, when does this routine start being addictive and become demotivating?

Andrew explained that a hi-stress team environment, such as first response units, have to analyse and react quickly and efficiently to make life-changing decisions. Their concurrent self-assessment feedback process regular focus on the steps taken, not just the long term goals and outcomes, is being adapted and used more and more in businesses’ daily routines. It has even replaced the traditional annual appraisals in some companies. It is thought that the process is more motivational than simply rewarding or penalising the final result a year later.

However, Andrew explained why team leaders must carefully and consciously avoid ‘feedback addiction’: “In academic literature, there is conflicting research considering the merits of concurrent feedback (that takes place during the task) versus terminal feedback (after the task is completed). Central to this debate is the “guidance hypothesis”, which states that constant feedback from an instructor will lead to over-reliance, such that when the feedback is removed, performance will diminish.

To avoid this “feedback addiction” research suggests that it’s most effective to offer both concurrent and terminal feedback to begin with and then transition to only terminal feedback as the task progresses.  Thus, you realise the immediate performance returns of concurrent feedback, but by eliminating it over time, you avoid the risk of over-reliance. Team leaders should by no means treat it as an absolute that concurrent feedback should be completely discontinued after a task has been completed once, but there is evidence to suggest that leaders should be wary of feedback addiction.’

Andrew’s top tips for best practice are: avoid feedback addiction, cultivate a team-first attitude, enable the team to self-correct, provide feedback from multiple sources, and motivate, strategise and educate. He advises that these will help leaders motivate different teams in different scenarios. If you’re wondering what Andrew’s credentials are, not only is this his area of expertise but he’s also worked with the likes of NASA to ensure their teams work effectively under pressure.

“Given the complexity of teams in modern organisations, it’s simply impossible to provide one standard set of rules for giving feedback. However, these tips are widely applicable and easily followed and should help leaders across a variety of organisations provide more effective feedback to their teams.”

The group were also joined by special guest speaker Tracy Westall, Director of Corporate Services, SCC. Tracy gave an inspirational talk reflecting on her leadership experience.

About the facilitator- Andrew Marcinko:

Andrew completed his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in the United States and was born and raised in the Washington DC area. His current research is focused on diversity and inclusion in the

workplace, with a particular interest in diversity management, team performance, and employee well-being. Previously, Andrew worked in collaboration with the U.S. Navy Submarine School and NASA on projects involving high-stress teams and performance. He also has extensive experience both producing and appearing on blogs, podcasts, and other media.

He is also an Associate Consultant with the Aston Behavioural Insights Group which helps organisations take the first steps to applying social psychology at work. The Aston Behavioural Insights Programme can be delivered as consultancy, coaching, training or as an education initiative to deliver the latest insights from the field of behavioural insights to design, develop and enhanced aspects of company culture, from workplace experience, to marketing, productivity, performance and innovation.