The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

How Can Child Welfare Case Managers Motivate Themselves?: Testing The Direct and Indirect Effects Of Seeking Goal-Related Feedback

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Mark S. Preston, PhD, Assistant Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose:  Organizational scholars assert that increasing work motivation in ambiguous and demanding occupational environments, like child welfare, requires greater self-regulation on the part of employees.  Self-regulation is a cyclical process consisting of three interconnected stages; each of which is facilitated by the seeking of goal-related feedback.  In stage 1, employees actively seek feedback to develop effective work strategies and estimate appropriate levels of personal effort for attaining self-set and/or assigned goals.  In stage 2, seeking (and receiving) feedback assists employees in mastering essential knowledge and skills that further goal attainment.  In stage 3, seeking (and receiving) feedback helps employees adjust personal efforts and work strategies in order to eliminate existing performance-goal discrepancies.  According to action regulation theory, feedback advances motivation across all three stages by influencing competency beliefs and outcome expectancies.  Greater skill development and/or knowledge gains are experienced by employees who effectively seek goal-related feedback.  These outcomes enhance competency beliefs and outcome expectancies which, in turn, increase motivation.  To date, no published empirical studies have examined the direct or indirect effects of seeking goal-related feedback on motivation.  The present study addresses this research gap by testing the following hypotheses: 

      1) a positive main effect for feedback seeking on motivation (stage 1);

      2) feedback received fully mediates the feedback seeking-motivation relationship (stage 2); and

      3) a positive two-way seeking-receiving feedback interaction effect on motivation (stage 3).

 Methods:  Four hundred and nineteen case managers from 10 county-based child welfare agencies across New York State were surveyed (79.5 % response rate).  Cronbach’s alphas and factor loadings all achieved recommended levels.  Discriminant validity was established using principle axis factoring with varimax rotation.  Hypotheses were tested using procedures outlined by Aiken and West (moderator analysis), and Baron and Kenny (mediator analysis).  No violations of OLS regression were noted. 

 Results:  All hypotheses were supported.  The main effect for seeking feedback (β = 0.13, p < 0.05) and two-way seeking-receiving feedback interaction (β = 0.14, p < 0.05) were significant in the predicted direction.  The Sobel test confirmed receiving feedback’s mediational role (Sobel test statistic = 1.96, p < 0.05).  Finally, Baron and Kenny’s procedures for establishing a mediated effect indicated that the relationship between feedback seeking and motivation was fully mediated by feedback received.

 Conclusion and Implications:  The present study is the first known empirical investigation to demonstrate a main, moderated, or mediated effect between feedback seeking and motivation.  If child welfare agencies plan to increase case manager motivation via self-regulation, study findings suggests that seeking and receiving feedback’s dynamic and interdependent relationship must be taken into consideration.  Failure to provide goal-related  feedback to case managers pursuing such information not only reduces motivation by attenuating competency beliefs and outcome expectancies, but also may obstruct key stages of self-regulation.  Testing the impact of feedback sought from various sources is one area of future research.  For example, given that supervisors are responsible for evaluating case manager performance, seeking feedback from co-workers or clients is less likely to have a positive and significant indirect impact on motivation.