Listening first, feedback later

Avraham N. Kluger*, Michal Lehmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: Following the call of DeNisi and Smith Sockbeson (this issue) to integrate the literatures on feedback and feedback-seeking, the authors propose to view feedback and feedback-seeking as behaviors falling on a conversation continuum ranging from telling subordinates something about their behavior (feedback) to listening. The authors develop a model according to which listening creates a special type of supervisor–subordinate relationship (an I–thou experience), which in turn allows subordinates to recognize faults and strengths in their behavior as to facilitate performance improvement, without the costs of formal feedback. Design/methodology/approach: Theory development and narrative research review. Findings: Feedback and feedback-seeking are communication behaviors emitted by a supervisor, or a subordinate, that can be conceptualized as points on a continuum ranging from telling (i.e. supervisor or subordinate giving feedback), through question-asking (i.e. supervisor’s or subordinate’s feedback-seeking), to listening (e.g. supervisor or subordinate listening to one another). Research limitations/implications: Under many circumstances, listening can address organizational needs much better than feedback. Practical implications: The feedforward interview in Listening Circles can be used to enhance performance at work. Social implications: Shifting the attention from feedback to listening by managers and researchers could facilitate a host of positive outcomes including better performance, lower burnout, higher job satisfaction and less extremism. Originality/value: This paper shows that listening is found on the other pole of feedback (telling) and exposes the benefits of considering listening, and not only telling.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)343-352
Number of pages10
JournalManagement Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 22 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Feedback
  • Listening


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