Reflecting on Performance Feedback: The Effect of Counterfactual Thinking on Individual Learning
Management and Entrepreneurship
Despite the importance of performance feedback for employee learning, research suggests that when that feedback conveys a performance discrepancy, subsequent performance does not improve. Researchers have found support for the value of encouraging individual reflection to increase feedback effectiveness and for subsequent learning and performance improvement. However, these studies have not accounted for the effects of specific types of reflection on performance. Our research examines the role of counterfactual thinking, a form of reflection, for learning following a performance discrepancy. We explore boundary conditions that might influence self-focused upward counterfactual thinking–reflection particularly important for learning and performance improvement–and examine whether and when such thinking influences the relationship between a baseline performance discrepancy and subsequent performance. To investigate these issues, we design, develop, and validate a computer simulated leadership skills task and administer it to graduate and undergraduate students (N= 169) in a web-based research setting. The results indicate that upon receiving feedback on performance discrepancies, it is likely that the feedback recipient will engage in self-focused upward counterfactual thinking, however such thinking may not improve task performance.
Academy of Management Proceedings
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)