A 360-degree appraisal gives employees feedback from everyone around them. The critiques can come from managers, peers, subordinates, clients and vendors. The importance of 360 feedback is that the perspective with such a broad review group is better than a supervisor alone would have. However, like most management techniques, the 360-degree appraisal has advantages and disadvantages.
The Importance of 360 Feedback
360-degree feedback isn't a tool for performance appraisal. It's not a measure of how well you do your job but is a way to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Uncovering unseen strengths can open up new opportunities, and looking at your weaknesses can highlight your blind spots.
The all-around feedback matters because different people have different perspectives. A team leader who screams, rants and bullies his team into performing may get a negative review from subordinates but a positive review from management.
Making the Appraisal
Suppose you've decided to make a 360-degree appraisal of a department head. The first step is to draw up a 360 survey or download one from the internet. Pick your survey respondents, send out the survey and ask them to submit the feedback anonymously.
Based on the survey responses, you draw up a report assessing the department head. Then you hold a session with the head to talk about the outcome and plan the next step. The final phase is a training program for developing strengths and overcoming weaknesses.
Like any management tool, this approach has its admirers and its detractors. To get the most mileage out of it, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of 360-degree feedback.
Benefits of a 360-Degree Review
Enthusiasts of the 360-degree appraisal say one of the biggest advantages is getting feedback from multiple viewpoints. By seeing an individual from all angles, there's a greater chance of producing a broad, objective assessment. There are other advantages too:
- As the review includes strengths along with weaknesses, it can boost confidence, particularly when it uncovers strengths someone doesn't realize.
- Employees and subordinates who are asked to weigh in on their supervisor feel that they're being heard. That boosts employee morale.
- It gives employees an opportunity to point out someone's unethical or unfair behavior. That increases accountability.
- Identifying minor problems makes it possible to deal with them before they become serious.
- The assessment fosters continuous improvement by showing people what parts of their business skills and people skills they need to develop or improve.
- Leaders can discover how customers, subordinates and superiors see them.
- The anonymous structure allows people to speak truthfully.
- The more people undergo a 360-degree review, the better the overall quality of the staff.
The 360-degree appraisal has advantages and disadvantages, and it's important to consider them both before using the method. One potential problem is that reviews are completely anonymous. Instead of being honest, people may feel free to take potshots or lash out at their co-workers. Like online comments, 360-degree appraisals can liberate people to be their worst selves.
That's not the only potential problem:
- If someone receives heavily negative feedback, even if it's honest, it can leave them feeling resentful.
- Feedback may not be accurate. On a small team where the members are close, they may not want to hurt someone's feelings, even anonymously. If the feedback group is large, the members may not really know the person they're reviewing well enough to judge.
- Survey respondents often focus on the weakness side and overlook the strengths.
- The process of collating and combining information from the surveys may reduce individual insights to a hodgepodge of generic comments.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com