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Why a 360-Feedback Approach can be Detrimental to Performance

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Virtually every organization I have partnered with has a form of employee performance evaluation system. Some more formal than others, which I favor; some exist as a mere formality that no one in the organization has a clue of how and when they are used. Assessing and providing performance feedback is essential to employees’ ability to perform duties effectively. Before individuals can be rewarded, there must be some process in place to assess their performance.

Multisource or 360-Feedback approach is one that many organizations are implementing today instead of the typical top-down process. In organizations where the culture cannot sustain such system, and people are not prepared nor trained on its purpose; it is bound to be a perfect recipe for what I like to call organizational feedback disaster. Done properly, 360-Feedback programs call for fairness, clarity, and credibility in performance improvement programs.


360-Feedback Best Practices

In 360-Feedback programs, evaluators often include peers, supervisors, managers, subordinates, the concerned employee, etc. The objective is to have everyone in the employee’s immediate circle as an evaluator. Ideally, such selection of peers will project a more honest and thorough picture of the employee’s performance than just that of a manager. To preserve the integrity of the process, some best practices are to be used:

  1. Ensure the 360-Feedback program for individual development, this is likely to increase acceptance of the program among employees.
  2. Link the process with overall business strategies and vision to measure outcome and make modifications as necessary.
  3. Train raters and everyone involved in the process on its importance.
  4. Engage senior managers as program champions, to instill employee confidence in the process.
  5. Coach and develop department managers and supervisors to help employees interpret results.

Shy of employee acceptance, a manager initiated program, such as the 360-Feedback process is not bound to have positive impact on the organization. Taking full advantage of the benefits, and minimizing potential negative effects on morale is imperative. Feedback providers should be coached to deliver true ratings, regardless of the fear that negative feedback may be used against peers’ career progression. In selecting peer raters, the possibility of bias due to limited observation or inflating ratings should also be addressed.

By Sophia Sanchez, PhD(c), SPHR

Founder and Principal Consultant
Develop For Results International
Author of  “The Development Alternative: Powerful Strategies for unparalleled Business Results”