Critical upward feedback in organisations: processes, problems and implications for communication management.
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Given that staff-management relationships are a core concern for communication management, upward feedback is emerging as a key theme in the literature. However, it is most often associated with upward appraisal. This study looks at upward feedback in a more general sense, and in particular at whether such feedback is critical or positive in its response to senior management decisions. 146 staff within a health care organisation (HCO) were surveyed, using a depth-Communication Audit instrument. 15 staff were also interviewed in detail, while 6 focus groups each composed of 6 people were also convened. Results indicated that informal upward feedback was mostly absent; that where it occurred the feedback was inaccurately positive; that senior managers were unaware of such distortions and unwilling to contemplate the possibility that they did indeed exist; that they had an exaggerated impression of how much upward feedback they received; and that they discouraged the transmission of critical feedback. Implications for the practice of communication management, the development of upward influence within organisations and general theoretical reasons for distortions in feedback processes are considered.