The Great Debates about 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback: Debates Defined

360 feedback is most effective when communicated from employee to employee but organizations debate about this.
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Each of us wants to know how we’re doing at work. We especially want data from our manager that tells us that we are doing well in his or her view. We have a great need to know how others view our work but we want the information delivered in a kind and gentle fashion.

In the great 360-degree feedback debate, do members of the organization provide 360-degree feedback anonymously or face-to-face? Do 360-degree feedback ratings affect performance appraisal ratings and salary increases or are they used to provide employees feedback just for employee development?

These and several other debates rage on in the performance management world. Proponents and opponents offer viable arguments for each point of view. Indeed, the introduction of 360-degree feedback methods sparks volatile discussion every time the topic comes up in an organization.

In my prior article, 360 Degree Feedback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I discussed how to make a 360-degree feedback system work effectively. In this series of articles, I’ll consider the debates that erupt whenever organizations decide to add 360-degree feedback to their performance management system.

It is an effective and useful component when your goal is to increase an employee's development and ability to contribute. If used punitively or unprofessionally, the 360 feedback is harmful to your organization's success.

360 Degree Feedback: Approaches Debated

There are legitimate arguments on both sides of each of these debates.

While I don’t pretend to cover all aspects of disagreement about these issues, these are the key areas of debate about 360-degree feedback plans.

  • The goal: developmental tool and use vs. performance appraisal tool.

     

  • The method: anonymously filled out 360-degree feedback instrument vs. face-to-face, or known coworker feedback, or a combination of these. Who picks the employees who will provide feedback?

     

  • The outcome: 360-degree feedback results impact salary increases vs. they have no impact on compensation.

     

  • The process: the individual owns the data from 360-degree feedback vs. the organization, including the manager, can access to review and use the data.

     

  • The instrument: self-developed 360-degree feedback assessment vs. off-the-shelf computerized or pen and paper instrument.

     

  • The readiness: the current climate in your organization for feedback is one of trust vs. the climate needs work to build trust first.

The measurements used to determine compensation in such a system include meeting measurable goals, attendance, and contribution rather than the 360 feedback.

Organization Readiness to Benefit from 360 Degree Feedback

Organizations have degrees of readiness for innovations such as 360-degree feedback. If your organization climate and culture is one of trust and cooperation, you are more ready for a 360-degree feedback process.

If you lack trust and have a culture of suspicion, implementing 360-degree feedback will be a lot about addressing the needs of people in your culture. You will tend to develop systems that are secretive, anonymous, and confidential. Even then, people will not believe that the feedback is confidential.

This will impact the data you collect.

It is best to first better understand your current culture and then, work on your culture and climate to create the type of organization in which 360-degree feedback will be truly valued and used for the development of the people in the organization.

In all cases, 360-degree feedback is most successful when it is fully integrated into your work environment as a tool to support the development of people in the attainment of the organization mission, vision, and values.

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