“If You Don’t Hear From Me You Know You Are Doing Fine”: The Effects of Management Nonresponse to Employee Performance
Hinkin, Timothy R.; Schriesheim, Chester A.
A study of 243 employees of two different hospitality organizations compared the effects of managers’ giving feedback with no comments at all (favorable or unfavorable). The study found that feedback, formally known as contingent reinforcement, improves performance even when that feedback involves negative or corrective comments. Echoing previous studies, this research found a positive relationship between contingent rewards and workers’ effectiveness and satisfaction. Moreover, contingent punishment also had a small positive relationship with effectiveness and satisfaction. Going beyond previous work, however, this study found that managers’ omission of any commentary on good performance has a direct, albeit moderate, negative relationship with workers’ effectiveness and a small, direct negative relationship on satisfaction. These findings point in the direction of the long-established psychological theory of operant conditioning, which suggests that a behavior that is totally ignored will eventually be extinguished. In this case, the behavior that will be lost is good service.
leadership; reinforcement; feedback
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