The Feedback Orientation Scale

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The Feedback Orientation Scale is comprised of 20 items on a 5-point scale meant to determine an individual’s receptivity to feedback and their individual feedback receptivity differences. It builds London & Smither’s concept of feedback orientation into a practical workplace feedback tool.

As the researchers put it:

“Feedback orientation, a construct proposed by London and Smither, is an individual’s overall receptivity to feedback. The current research developed and validated a multidimensional measure of feedback orientation. This new instrument will be a valuable tool for researchers and practitioners to better understand individual differences in the feedback process.”

—Beth A. Linderbaum & Paul E. Levy, The Development and Validation of the Feedback Orientation Scale (FOS)

Why is the Feedback Orientation Scale Important?

The scale offers practitioners a way to approach the importance of feedback, see how receptive colleagues may be to feedback, and identify areas where feedback capacities could be improved.

Unlike how we define feedback literacy here, the Feedback Orientation Scale, like the concept of feedback orientation, focuses on the feedback receiver.

While the scale provides a significant leap forward in feedback orientation research, I wonder if the 20 items further force feedback receivers into an all-or-nothing allegiance to whatever feedback they are given.

As with a large portion of the decades of research that have come before this, there exists a bit of an assumption throughout this paper that the feedback givers always deliver excellent feedback, are supervisors, and that the feedback receivers are mostly passive recipients who should adopt the feedback rather than receive it, process it, then choose how or if to adopt it.

For example, consider this item on the scale:

“Feedback from supervisors can help me advance in a company.”

To me, items like this remove the gray zone of feedback communication. If you are anything like me, you’ve received terrible feedback from supervisors. I’ve actually received such bad feedback from supervisors that adopting it would have derailed my career, not advanced it. You may have also received fantastic feedback from peers or those who report to you.

So does an item like this further the prevailing notion, as many papers and articles suggest, that supervisors are the all-knowing feedback wisdom-keepers? I believe it could. Can supervisors deliver great feedback? Absolutely. But what’s the impact, particularly on early-in-career feedback receivers, when all signals around them point to supervisor feedback being so positive? How will they deal with the cognitive dissonance they feel when they receive either horrible feedback or feedback delivered horribly?

Here’s another item:

“I feel obligated to make changes based on feedback.”

Obligated? Again, this can set the giver and receiver into a power hierarchy that can already make the feedback relationship challenging and likely doesn’t benefit the relationship by being reinforced.

How can you use the Feedback Orientation Scale?

You might ask your team to complete the following items on the scale, rating their response using the following:

  • Strongly Disagree (1)
  • Disagree (2)
  • Neutral (3)
  • Agree (4)
  • Strongly Agree (5)

From there, you could open up a discussion with your team and with each individual on your team. This could be a helpful practice as part of how you develop your team’s feedback literacy.

The Feedback Orientation Scale categories and items

Utility

  1. Feedback contributes to my success at work.
  2. To develop my skills at work, I rely on feedback.
  3. Feedback is critical for improving performance.
  4. Feedback from supervisors can help me advance in a company.
  5. I find that feedback is critical for reaching my goals.

Accountability

  1. It is my responsibility to apply feedback to improve my performance.
  2. I hold myself accountable to respond to feedback appropriately.
  3. I don’t feel a sense of closure until I respond to feedback.
  4. If my supervisor gives me feedback, it is my responsibility to respond to it.
  5. I feel obligated to make changes based on feedback.

Social Awareness

  1. I try to be aware of what other people think of me.
  2. Using feedback, I am more aware of what people think of me.
  3. Feedback helps me manage the impression I make on others.
  4. Feedback lets me know how I am perceived by others.
  5. I rely on feedback to help me make a good impression.

Feedback Self-Efficacy

  1. I feel self-assured when dealing with feedback.
  2. Compared to others, I am more competent at handling feedback.
  3. I believe that I have the ability to deal with feedback effectively.
  4. I feel confident when responding to both positive and negative feedback.
  5. I know that I can handle the feedback that I receive.

What’s next for the Feedback Orientation Scale?

While I haven’t seen widespread corporate adoption of the Feedback Orientation Scale, there have been some interesting uses over the years.

In 2022, 3,361 general surgery applicants to two medical centers were asked to complete the Feedback Orientation Scale as part of their application.

Also, in 2022, researchers leveraged the Feedback Orientation Scale to create a Peer-Feedback Orientation Scale for students. As the authors state:

“This study adds a new perspective by investigating individual factors that influence students’ openness to provide as well as receive (i.e. peer-feedback orientation).”

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