Tip of the Week: Providing Consistent Performance Feedback

In pharmacy management, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach might not be the most appropriate for providing performance feedback during formal review sessions.

Performance feedback takes many forms. We are all familiar and can empathize with the dreaded annual performance review. However, the performance review need not be so daunting for neither the supervisor nor employee, particularly when there has been open communication between all parties and informal, constructive feedback has been given routinely between those formal review occasions. Although traditional wisdom suggests certain pearls of wisdom for supervisors, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach might not be the most appropriate for providing performance feedback during formal review sessions.

In a PLoS One study, the investigators examined the effectiveness of performance feedback when considering personality and task demands. These authors state that although performance feedback is widely employed as a means to improve motivation, the efficacy and reliability of performance feedback is often obscured by individual differences and situational variables.

The study explored how Big Five personality traits—conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness—moderate the motivational impact of false positive and negative feedback on easy, neutral, and frustrating tasks, respectively. They found that individuals who are both conscientious and neurotic appear particularly sensitive to task difficulty, and are more motivated by negative feedback on easy tasks and demotivated by negative feedback on frustrating tasks. In other words, perfectionists demonstrate an increased sensitivity to negative feedback. Moreover, this sensitivity is exacerbated by task difficulty, as perfectionists experience are affected more negatively after negative feedback on difficult versus easy tasks. The research also found positive feedback to motivate agreeable people working on easy tasks, but not on difficult tasks.

The pharmacy manager does not necessarily motivate, but rather, creates an environment conducive to self-motivation. The manager cannot possibly retain all of the sociology and management study findings that come out on a routine basis. They can, however, take from this and other evidence to frame employees’ work tasks around those tasks’ value to the organization rather than their level of difficulty during employee goal-setting. Providing direction, assurance, and boosting employees’ self-confidence would appear to be winning ways for the manager, even while bearing in mind that situational leadership is called for depending on the make-up of employee team members and the type of work they have in front of them. There are certain strategies when providing performance feedback that are almost universally effective. There are still others that are situational.

Effective pharmacy managers must balance universal tenets with needed modifications dependent upon the employee and their job responsibilities. Using both common sense and a bit of knowledge acquired from management literature would appear appropriate and often a good mix.

Additional information about performance appraisals in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University in California.


Swift P, Peterson JB. Improving the effectiveness of performance feedback by considering personality traits and task demands. PLoS One. 2018; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197810.

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