Cultivating Accountability by Eliciting Upward Feedback

Scates Kettler, Hannah
Associate University Librarian for Academic Services
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The department maintains an active public service, outreach, and tour program to both on-campus and off-campus groups, including academic classes, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, the Honors Program, ISU Learning Communities, Extension and 4-H groups, and K-12 student groups such as National History Day. The department also creates virtual exhibits for online visitors to its Web site, as well as exhibits for the Reading Room area and other locations on campus. The Reading Room, located on the fourth floor of Parks Library, oversees the central campus, and researchers and visitors are always welcome
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In many work environments, regular staff performance evaluations are the norm, and this practice has real impact on staff promotion opportunities and raises. However, this process is typically top down, i.e., the supervisor evaluates the supervisee. Often employees do not have the opportunity to evaluate their supervisor in turn. This norm of personnel evaluation potentially creates barriers for staff to express their needs as workers, as well as for supervisors to listen, learn, and grow.

This presentation will outline how two newer middle managers at different institutions approached seeking upward feedback from their direct reports. They will discuss what inspired them, how they implemented upward feedback opportunities, what feedback they received from their colleagues, and their reflections since then. For both managers, this process provided crucial feedback and set a precedent to repeat the feedback loop throughout their careers to foster a more open, inclusive, and equitable work environment.

We will draw upon published research on mechanisms of accountability within organizations (particularly within relationships with power differentials) while narrating our own lived experiences. Throughout we will create opportunities for reflection from attendees by posing questions in an Etherpad, such as:

  • We must make explicit both to whom and for what we owe accountability. What are managers accountable to their direct reports for?
  • What are some necessary conditions for direct reports to feel safe enough to be candid when offering feedback to their managers? How can managers create these conditions?
  • How do we operationalize accountability to direct reports? How do we design trustworthy processes, independent of the individuals occupying management roles?

Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2021