Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tarek Azzam

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Leslie A. Fierro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Stewart I. Donaldson

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Samantha B Langan


evaluation anxiety, excessive stakeholder evaluation anxiety, mixed methods research, program evaluation, XSEA

Subject Categories



Fear of negative evaluation from others is an innate human characteristic. When a program is being evaluated and program staff are involved in evaluation activities, these stakeholders are allowing their services and by extension, themselves, to be examined by evaluators. Consequently, program evaluation can be an anxiety-inducing and uncomfortable experience for program staff. In instances when stakeholders are highly anxious over the prospect of having their program evaluated, they are said to be experiencing excessive stakeholder evaluation anxiety (XSEA). Prior to this study few researchers had empirically examined XSEA, though initial evidence suggested that stakeholders with XSEA employed coping strategies that intentionally or unintentionally harmed the integrity of an evaluation. To provide greater clarity on the phenomenon and management of XSEA, an exploratory sequential mixed methods study was conducted that first examined XSEA in the context of a large Midwestern nonprofit organization (Phase 1), and then assessed how these Phase 1 results applied to evaluators associated with the American Evaluation Association (Phase 2). Findings from this research provide tentative evidence that stakeholders have an accurate understanding of their own anxiety towards evaluation, and that asking stakeholders how they feel about the evaluation process may be the most reliable way for evaluators to learn if their stakeholders are experiencing XSEA. Additionally, 10 sources or risk factors for developing XSEA emerged across both research phases: four stakeholder characteristics, two program or organizational factors, three situational factors, and one evaluator characteristic. Stakeholders characteristics included program staff having a high vested interest in the success of their program, feeling overwhelmed with their everyday work responsibilities and worrying about the extra time and resources evaluation would require of them, feeling concerned about disappointing external audiences, and having a strong desire to showcase their programs’ strengths to others. Organizational factors included uncertainty about a program’s future and a mismatch between a program’s interests and its funder’s interests. Few resources to conduct an evaluation, concerns over the national US climate and policies, and community interest in the results of evaluation data comprised the situational sources of XSEA. The evaluator characteristic—and the only one within an evaluator’s control—was the evaluator not successfully explaining the anticipated benefits of evaluation or evaluation activities to stakeholders. Relatedly, employing effective communication and facilitation skills, working in partnership with program staff, and demonstrating the value of evaluation to stakeholders emerged as key themes in preventing and managing XSEA. Ultimately, this research resulted in a theoretical framework of XSEA that provides evaluators with a foundational understanding of the phenomenon, as well as in the development of a tool called the XSEA Detection and Management Checklist that evaluators can use as a guide to systematically uncover and address XSEA. A major implication of this research is that evaluators would benefit from continual assessment and strengthening of their interpersonal competencies, which play an essential role in effectively perceiving, preventing, and mitigating XSEA.



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