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Message Design Logics and Effectiveness of Corrective Feedback

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1 Message Design Logics and Effectiveness of Corrective Feedback
Kathryn S. O’Neill, Geraldine E. Hynes, & Heather R. Wilson Sam Houston State University March 14, 2013 Association for Business Communication Southwestern U.S. Annual Conference

2 Background Organizations spent $133.4 billion in 2011 to train employees (ASTD, State of the Industry Report, 2012) 12.6% is for training managers and supervisors 7.9% is for training in interpersonal skills Premise: Skilled communicators of corrective feedback improve employee performance and productivity

3 Agenda Theoretical Framework Purpose Methodology Results
Discussion and Implications

4 Theoretical Framework
O’Keefe and McCornack (1987) Asked why some communication situations elicit wide variation in messages’ content and effectiveness O’Keefe’s (1988) Theory of Message Design Logics Suggested messages are designed according to three fundamental premises in ends-to-means reasoning about communication

5 Expressive Fundamental Premise: Language is a medium for expressing thoughts and feelings Example: “You have not done your share of the group’s work. I am going to have to remove you from the group. I know you have done some work, though. Can you bring it to my house so I can use it? Maybe I can salvage something from this situation.”

6 Conventional Fundamental Premise: Communication is a game played cooperatively by social rules Example: “I am going to have to ask you to rewrite this report. The things I want you to do are listed on this page of comments. Please turn the work around as quickly as possible.”

7 Rhetorical Fundamental Premise: Communication is the creation and negotiation of social selves and situations Example: “Things have gone well on our project, and we have another whole day before it must go to the typist. Your part was good, but I think it could be strengthened with some minor additions. What would really help is some statistical support. I bet a couple of hours at the library would do the trick. I know you are as eager as the rest of us to get a good grade, and I think the investment of a little more time would really pay off. What do you say?”

8 Purpose Apply O’Keefe’s theory To the workplace
To interactions between supervisors and their subordinates

9 Research Methods Pilot study: collected messages in response to a typical corrective feedback situation Sample: 14 Supervisors in communication training program Task: To deliver corrective feedback to a chronically tardy employee Procedure: Supervisors wrote what they would say to their employee Analysis: Authors used a rubric to analyze each message independently Came to consensus for each message

10 Results: Distribution of Message Types
21% of the sample composed Rhetorical messages 64% composed Conventional messages 14% composed Expressive messages The results of each supervisor’s message appear in the Table. We independently assessed the message for each response before coming to consensus on the appropriate classification. As the Table shows, the majority of the supervisors’ messages fell into the Conventional category. This indicates that most supervisors attempted not only to correct the imaginary subordinate’s behavior but also to discuss the rules and policies set in place for such occurrences in a polite and professional manner. Expressive logic focuses on the sender’s thoughts and feelings. One message we identified as Expressive Logic was: “The reason tardy—making by himself—punish [sic].” Conventional logic is determined by the sender’s following the rules of social convention, and is pragmatic in nature. One message we identified as Conventional Logic is, “End the conversation by asking him to work on his tardiness or I would have to result by going to disciplinary action.” Rhetorical logic focuses on social negotiation. The goal is consensus and interpersonal harmony, with an emphasis on effects rather than on consequences of actions. A message we identified as an example of Rhetorical Logic is, “I need to find out how I can help you with this problem. Because your tardiness just does not efect [sic] me but every one else that work a long side [sic] of you.”

11 Results: Experience And Message Type
Years of Experience Rhetorical 5 - 20 Conventional 1 - 12 Expressive 1, unk. A second interesting finding is that length of experience as a supervisor appears to have an effect on the type of corrective feedback given. The supervisor’s messages classified as using Rhetorical logic when dealing with employee issues had all had at least five years of experience in supervision. This finding supports O’Keefe’s assertion that the levels are developmentally “stepped.” Additional time and experience on the job would equate to learning and skill development leading to skills at the Rhetorical level. Less experienced supervisors’ feedback tended to focus on reactionary responses (expressive logic) and rule-based responses (conventional logic). We concluded from these results that newer supervisors may not understand the dynamics of the work environment yet, which limits their ability to create context with subordinates that is necessary for Rhetorical logic.

12 Discussion Theory is supported in workplace settings
Developmental aspect of the theory is supported Theory supports a strategy of formal training for supervisory communication skills Case-based exercises may be a valuable tool for predicting supervisors’ communication skill level

13 Next Steps Expand study to include supervisors in multiple industry settings Expand study to consider more demographic factors Test perceived effectiveness of message design logics

14 Thank you! Kathryn O’Neill <>
Gerry Hynes Heather Wilson PowerPoint <>

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