Fostering psychological safety through facework: the importance of the effective delivery of performance feedback
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This study examined the relationships between employees’ perceptions of supervisory coaching-oriented behaviors and psychological safety at work, and between psychological safety at work and error reporting and turnover. This study also examined the relationships between employees’ perceptions of the degree to which supervisors show regard for their subordinates’ positive and negative face under conditions of negative feedback communication, and psychological safety at work. Coaching-oriented behaviors were operationalized as delivering prompt, specific, and behaviorally-related general performance feedback; considerate, private, and externally-attributed negative performance feedback; public and internally-attributed positive performance feedback; seeking input from work group members; listening to work group members’ concerns; and being accessible and receptive to work group members’ questions and ideas. Results indicated that the more supervisors were perceived to (a) seek input from subordinate employees regarding work-related matters, (b) attribute poor performance to external factors when delivering negative performance feedback, and (c) provide prompt general performance feedback to employees, the greater employees’ reported psychological safety. Results also indicated that the more supervisors were perceived to attend to employees’ face needs when delivering negative feedback (particularly their positive face needs), the greater employees’ reported psychological safety. In turn, psychological safety was found to be significantly and positively associated with the willingness of employees (and work groups) to report errors, and to be significantly and negatively associated with employees’ (and work groups’) intention to turnover. Negative feedback delivered in a considerate tone of voice also was found to be a statistically significant predictor of group members’ willingness to report errors. However, psychological safety was not found to be related to actual error reporting or turnover by work unit in this study. Implications and directions for further research are discussed.