The Performance Effects of Narrative Feedback
54 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2021 Last revised: 6 Jun 2023
Date Written: November 10, 2022
This paper investigates the influence of narrative feedback on employee performance. Specifically, we examine a feedback process in which supervisors write structured feedback memoranda on employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Using self-regulation theory, we focus on understanding how the textual characteristics of specificity and causal language use affect employees’ performance development. We predict that specificity and causal language use will influence employees’ self-regulation processes differently when used in feedback on strengths or feedback on weaknesses, and use natural language processing and textual analyses to create measures of specificity and causal language use. Our results show that for narrative feedback on strengths, higher levels of specificity have a positive influence on performance improvement, consistent with a more systematic exploration of alternative behaviors. For narrative feedback on weaknesses, our results show that higher levels of causal language use have a positive influence, consistent with an improved understanding and sensemaking. In contrast, our results suggest that specificity in feedback on weaknesses and causal language use in feedback on strengths are more likely to be associated with ineffective self-regulation and to have a negative influence on performance improvement. In additional analyses, we explore the role of contextual factors for the effectiveness of self-regulation following narrative feedback. In sum, our findings advance our understanding of whether and how narrative feedback can be valuable for employee development.
Keywords: performance feedback; narrative feedback; feedback message characteristics; performance management; self-regulation.
JEL Classification: C99, J24, M12, M41, M51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation