Is anybody listening? Performance evaluation feedback in the U.S. Air Force

Saundra J. Reinke, J. Norman Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The ultimate purpose of feedback is to improve employee performance. For this to occur, employees must accept and act upon the information they receive in the feedback process. Thus, employee perceptions and attitudes towards the process and their supervisor play an important role in understanding why performance feedback frequently fails in the work setting. This article investigates whether supervisor credibility, superior-subordinate similarity, and management support improve the quality of performance feedback that captains receive in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force (1988) defines quality feedback as feedback that is specific, objective, and involves two-way communication. Supervisor credibility and superior-subordinate similarity are research components based on Hovland's (Hovland, Janis, & Kelly, 1953) theory of communication. Hovland et al. propose that acceptance of information and subsequent changes in behavior depend on the perceptions the recipient of a communication has about the sender. Placed in the context of performance feedback, the subordinate will receive and act upon feedback based upon perceptions about the supervisor - credibility and superior-subordinate similarity. Hovland et al. propose that credibility has two components - supervisor trustworthiness and expertise. These sender characteristics - trustworthiness, expertise, and similarity to receiver - determine whether communication is acted upon. The finding indicate that trust in one's superior and a superior's expertise are associated with perceptions of quality performance evaluation feedback. The findings also provide partial support for the hypotheses that management support of feedback processes has a significant relationship with perceptions of quality feedback and that management support moderates the relationship between quality feedback and trust, expertise, and similarity. Moreover, trust, expertise, and management support explain a substantial amount of variance in the three elements of quality feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-176
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Political and Military Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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