THE FEEDBACK OF CORPORATE PROFESSIONALS - 'ARROW' OR 'ANCHOR'?


11 Oct
11Oct

The organisational processes depend on many standard and variable goals and conditions, therefore, their regulation depends on feedback for validation of the progress or existing problems. 

There are many articles about the feedback between managers and employees, which define its various characteristics and its specific application by the managers - such as appraisal and improvement of performance and communication. The primary general orientation highlights several types of feedback according to their polar differentiation - formal vs informal, regular vs proactive, requested vs provided, verbal vs written, person-focused vs problem-focused, as well as their combinations. 

For example, the person-focused formal feedback is developed by HR management, even though it is only requested or provided by managers - and is not related to the proactive employee feedback. An example of requested by managers feedback is the 360-degree feedback for appraisal of employee performance through multi-level feedback from co-workers, subordinates, managers, and clients. An example of provided by managers feedback is the constructive feedback method “sandwich”, which is a part of the ethical communication of managers, where before and after the critical content there is positive content. 

In this context, there are some basic variants of corporate feedback. The formal feedback is verbal or written reports from and to respective managers or the HR department. The basic types of regular formal feedback are verbal feedback through meetings, regular reports of managers, or regular written feedback requested by management for performance reviews. The proactive formal feedback is a signal sent for concrete cases like disregard for working standards or behavioural norms. The informal feedback in direct interpersonal communication is the verbal or non-verbal signal for support or rejection through comments, facial expressions, gestures, posture, tone of voice, as well as symbolic actions and signs.  

Generally, the dominant type of corporate feedback depends on the dominant type of management and the respective corporate culture. Historically, there are three core types of social authority and respective corporate management, culture and feedback. Dictator authority and 'hard' management of ‘rulers’ lead to a culture of mass obedience and fear of punishment and repression, as well as domination of secret or anonymous feedback. Political authority and ‘soft’ management of ‘leaders’ lead to a culture of idolising the leader and the supportive group, and double standards for protection and privileges, as well as domination of person-focused informal feedback. Bureaucratic authority and ‘standard’management of ‘administrators’ lead to a culture of transparent rules and respect for standards and norms, as well as domination of regular formal feedback. 

The object of the present problem analysis is the comparison between present dominant and inhibited types of corporate feedback according to their relevant corporate management and culture. 

The corporations are socio-economic organisations with business, interactive and safety levels of functions and regulation. Therefore, they require all basic types of social authority - ‘ruler’ type for security regulation; ‘leader’ type for team organisation; and ‘administrator’ type for regulation of common professional duties. In this context, each management type has dominant functions in the respective organisational levels, but the dominance of one type on all levels causes problems. 

Nowadays, corporations have capacity for development of new ‘coordinative’ authority and multilevel management of professional managers. The coordination of individual and corporate goals depends on development of relevant management skills - from the basic self-management skills of all professionals to the differentiated management skills of professional managers. These skills are necessary for proactive organisation of both individual and corporate operativity like learning, work, coordination, and situational and problem orientation. The effective multilevel management requires self-management training for all professionals and educational degree for the professional managers in the respective management field. The development of coordinative authority and multilevel management is a basic condition for the development of the respective corporate culture of coordinated goals and responsibilities as well as for the development of proactive goal- or problem-focused feedback from both managers and employees. 

For an easier orientation, the described core types of social authority can be systematized according to their dominant authority holders; power styles, transparency rules, dominant type of feedback and primary introduction for social purposes: 

1. Ruler – dictator style with supreme power through commands and repression; lack of information transparency, secret and anonymous feedback. Primary introduction: for state military defense and dictatorship.

2. Leader – political style with group power through support, protection and double standards with privileges for the leaders and their groups of supporters; person-focused informal feedback. Primary introduction: for development and domination of powerful social groups.

3. Administrator – bureaucratic style with institutional power through common laws and standards; regulation through transparent rules for communication, responsibilities, sanctions and incentives; regular formal feedback. Primary introduction: for institutional and state stabilisation and regulation.

4. Professional Manager – coordinative style with multilevel power without domination of only one authority style; coordination between professional management skills of managers and self-management skills of employees – for personal and corporate organisation of professional learning, work, goals, and development; goal- or problem-focused formal feedback. Primary introduction: for organisation and coordination on individual, team, corporate, institutional, state and global level.

The domination of only one of these management types leads to corporate instability and organisational problems. For instance, the leader-focused management depends predominantly on the subjective decisions of the manager-leader or the leader-mentor. They have the privilege to apply ‘flexible’ double standards for the achievement of their own goals, like situational disregard for required education and experience or overvaluation of insignificant strengths or weaknesses of professionals. The frequent cases of double standard application lead to the development of a culture of overvalued group belonging, protection and double standards, instead of respect for the common rules and ethical norms. Generally, the leader-focused management and culture foster corporate stability, but arrest the organisational and professional development. 

If the professional career depends on proactive support of the manager-leader and the leader’s circle rather than proactive development of relevant education and professional skills, this creates conditions for the emergence of career-seeking ‘weathercocks’ - who primarily seek dominant leaders and groups to offer unconditional support in exchange for protection. For example, HR professionals of this type, who do not have the required educational and professional preparation and mainly rely on the trust, protection and recommendations of the leaders, cannot respectively appreciate the proactive professional development and relevant education – neither their own, nor that of the job candidates. This maintains a vicious circle, which makes the proactivity for professional development and quality improvement pointless. 

On the other hand, overvaluation of the role of the leader and the group support in a corporation with multi-national staff leads to a formation of dominating groups according to separate cultural criteria which hinders the integration of all corporate professionals. In order to understand and overcome the problems of the leader-focused management and culture, it is necessary to create a mass sensitivity towards them. The development of general problem orientation depends on popularisation of relevant general concepts through professional scientific journals and global professional websites like LinkedIn, as well as the professional educational courses provided in universities, institutes and corporate learning and development departments. 

Every professional who has worked in contemporary corporate environment with dominant leader-focused management and culture is familiar with cases of protection and double standard - such as the appointment of HR managers without educational degree or non-relevant degree like Marine Environmental Science or Early Childhood Education. The management of organisational processes requires a multilevel problem orientation and, therefore, depends on development of both learning and practical skills in the management field. This is actually valid for the present multilevel problem orientation about the dominant corporate feedback and its correlation with the dominant type of corporate management and culture. Therefore, without my course and thesis papers with proactive reviews and practical researches in the field of HR management and corporate culture, it would not have been possible to develop the relevant problem orientation, experience and knowledge required to conduct the present problem analysis in this field. 

It is necessary to develop sensitivity to these problems of the leader-focused corporate culture. For example, a manager with no educational degree in the field of management and with insufficient experience is selected for a promotion simply because of ‘the courage to speak with the hiring manager ahead of the selection process’. It was highlighted as an advantage at the time and, respectively, established the dominant role of leadership power, double standards, protection and subjective informal feedback. 

In another example, an HR specialist, who believes in her leadership skills, confidently applies for a managerial position, which requires a degree, without having any. That specialist has previously allowed herself to demonstrate dismissive informal feedback during an interview by throwing a pen at an internal job candidate who asked her to repeat the instructions. On the other hand, she demonstrates supportive feedback to her future manager and mentor by hanging his portrait on her cubicle wall and by praising him publically. 

Symbolically, this informal person-oriented feedback can be compared to a falling ‘arrow’ with the harming peak pointed at the employees without any protection, and the feather caressing the managers. In this case, the demonstrative positive feedback given to managers is aimed at admission in the leader circles and protection, while the negative feedback to some subordinate employees is aimed at demonstration of leadership power, rejection and even bullying. This may respectively lead to protection of mediocre professionals as well as to personal problems of the bullied and loss of their motivation to work in a common workplace or team. The final result is ineffective work - which becomes a corporate problem. 

In contrast, the proactive problem-focused feedback can be symbolised by an ‘anchor’ with two non-harming peaks - for correlated feedback from managers and employees such as report and decisions about problems or achievement of goals. 

For a simpler orientation, the dominant and nascent feedback of the present ‘leader’ type corporate management and culture can be compared and symbolised as follows: 

1. Arrow – dominant basic type of person-focused informal feedback for subjective accusations or praises of employees or managers. The ‘arrow’ with peak and feather symbolises the action for rejection or support to concrete individuals or groups, according to subjective emotions and goals. This feedback dominates in the ‘leader’ type corporate management and culture because it is suitable for demonstration of support or rejection as well as for overvaluation of insignificant achievements or mistakes - with а view to apply subjective double standard and protection. This pushes to the background corporate values such as corporate belonging and effective learning and work. The culture of group belonging and domination of the ‘arrow’ type feedback creates conditions for subjective and group actions of rejection, harrassment or domination - which leads to frustration of the corporate professionals and dissatisfaction with work, and respectively, to a decrease in work motivation and work effectiveness as a whole. 

2. Anchor – nascent basic type of problem-focused formal feedback for situational or problem orientation and decision making, according to all professional standards and ethical norms. The ‘anchor’ with two curved upward peaks symbolises decision-focused coordination of requested and provided reports of managers and employees about ongoing work processes or problems. These reports are problem- or situation-focused, well-grounded, and non-harming. They are relevant to the ‘professional management’ type of corporate management and culture of multilevel coordination and corporate belonging - which depend on the coordinated self-management skills of the employees and the management skills of the managers. This creates conditions for knowing adherence to the professional standards and ethic norms, development of effective learning and work, mitigation of frustration, satisfaction with work and corporate belonging. 

The primary condition for overcoming the problems of leader-focused management and corporate culture, which facilitate person-focused feedback type ‘arrow’ and inhibit problem-focused feedback type ‘anchor’, is to understand them. 

In this line of thoughts, it is very important to answer the question – What is our dominant type of corporate culture and what is our dominant feedback type – ‘arrow’ or ‘anchor’?

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