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10 Myths of 360 Degree Feedback Busted

Mathew Maniyamkott

Mathew Maniyamkott

7 min read

The employee performance review in which your co-workers, bosses, subordinates and every stakeholder rate you is called 360 degree feedback. The appraisal systems in most companies usually only involve the immediate manager partaking in it and rating the employee. But in the 360 degree method feedback system, the objective is to find the strengths and weaknesses of a particular employee from everyone who works with him/her.

This type of feedback is usually used for middle and senior level roles because there is sufficient data that can be generated from all related employees for a detailed assessment.

It is also used to assess the future performance of an employee and to see if there could be a long-term roadmap created for the employee in the interests of the employer. Training and development for the employee is planned based on the feedback from the peers, subordinates, seniors and the self-appraisal filled in by the employees.

Benefits of 360-degree feedback

It gives a balanced view: It is useful to the employee as it provides a well-balanced view of the skillset of the employe. It provides a fairly accurate picture of the employee’s behavior so far.

Helps see the faults: Since there is rating from multiple people who work with the employee in various capacities, they can get an overall view of their behavior, something that would have not been noticed properly earlier. Observing these overlooked behaviors can help unlock a better work ethic.

Self-awareness: The employees are given a complete report that not only tells them the areas that need to be improved, but also gives them a roadmap as to how immediate changes can be made to better the performance.

It shows that the management cares: Other than the fact that the management gives you a deep insight into your performance and suggests changes, an employee is also given the opportunity to assess the performance and behavior of his/her superiors. It shows the management respects the opinion of the employee.

Ideal appraisal method for top executives: It is no doubt that the senior players in a company are pivotal to the success of the organisation. There was no appraisal method that gave a holistic view of the top executive’s performance before this one. 360-degree feedback gives the opportunity for even entry-level employees to give feedback about their superiors without any fear of a backlash.

It shows the impact employees have on each other: Since there is a wide range of feedback from different parties, it gives the employees an idea about how their behavior and work directly impacts other people. It helps provide a complete analysis as all the stakeholders rate differently. A peer might rate based on their co-worker’s genial behavior while a superior might rate the person on the output produced and so on.

Like most things that are good, there are a lot of myths surrounding 360 degree feedback and this article talks about 10 such myths that hold back companies from employing this technique.

Myth #1: It helps only the management

Most employee performance reviews only want to put an employee within the confines of a bell curve based on which they are judged and rewarded. But a 360-degree feedback appraisal system gives you a comprehensive run down of the areas which needs to be improved, why there has been a lag in performance, the emotional quotient of the employee which can be assessed with feedback from different quarters, decision-making ability of the employee and much more. It stands loyal to its name by giving a 360 degree feedback, and there are a lot of takeaways for the management as well to improve the prospects of the particular employee. The myth that 360-degree feedback only helps the management stands destroyed; thanks to the points that we have mentioned above.

feedback helps company

Myth #2: 360-degree feedback is used to remove underperformers from the company

A multi-rater feedback should never be used as a method to resolve performance problems. It is the immediate superior’s job to improve the performance output of an employee. Sure, he/she can take feedback from the employees, but that should never be used against an employee unless it is a serious issue like embezzlement, harassment and the likes. The immediate superior should be the one taking the decision of firing an employee. Using negative feedback from the other stakeholders to make a decision can result in a lot of resentment and anger. The 360-degree feedback that the immediate boss gets should be used to course-correct the trajectory for an employee who is going wayward and not use it against the employee to fire them.

Myth #3: It is a great way to assess new joinees

Nothing could be farther from truth when it comes to 360-degree feedback in terms of it having the ability to assess new employees. Let there be at least a 6-month interaction before you employ this method on someone. There is too little ‘data’ to make any solid decision (read remarks) on the new employee. Chances are that people with preconceived notions might not be able to give an informed feedback on the new employee.

Myth #4: Interpreting the results is easy

easy as that
The thing with asking people for feedback about themselves is that they tend to exaggerate their skills and the output they produce. People imagine that they have a much bigger clout on their work and the effect that they have on the work environment. Also, not to forget that people are usually extremely optimistic about the future. These factors make it a possibility that people might give themselves a much positive self-appraisal than normal or deserved. Research has shown that the employee is effective when the ratings given by them is similar to the ratings given by others. If the ratings given by self and others is a huge mismatch, it means that there is less effectiveness on the job. It is found that people who underestimate themselves are effective than those who give themselves high ratings.

While we have spoken about people who rate themselves differently, there is one more factor which makes interpreting results from 360-degree appraisal a little confusing: Personality. Accepting feedback and working on it completely depends on the said person’s personality. It is found that when there is not much mismatch among the ratings between self and peers, the person is usually open to working on themselves.

Myth #5: Employees like giving feedback

Everyone likes to be respected, if you are asked for your opinion about the people in your office informally by a peer, there is not much thought put into it as they are comfortable sharing the feedback. Unless you train your employees about 360-degree feedback, they would initially be apprehensive about pouring out their views. There is also the lurking fear that the feedback they give might be traced back to them. The leadership team should make it a point to assure them about the safety of the feedback process.

Once employees understand the effectiveness of this feedback, they would be enthused to share it unbiasedly. Proper education about the process will also help them understand that it is only to improve their work and that any of the feedback given for them should not be taken personally.

bill gates improvement quote

Myth #6: 360-degree feedback will rein in positive changes

The importance of feedback cannot be denied in terms of personal improvement. Giving someone feedback alone will not bring about the required changes, but there needs to be changes incorporated by the person who is a recipient of the feedback. If there is an area that is found lacking in the candidate and the same has been communicated in the 360-degree feedback, unless the management decides to help them with the transitioning and the employee is happy to be led, there will be no result on display.

There are a lot of factors that contribute towards an employee making changes. Some of them are: 1. Trusting the credibility of the feedback itself, 2. Attitude towards the job, the company and their peers, 3. Self-motivation of the employee and 4. The values of the organization.

Myth #7: People will ask for a good rating from their peers

There is unfortunately a belief that the employees will ask their friends for a good rating and in turn they will return the favor. It is critical for companies to take this seriously and make sure that there are no biased reviews. As much as anonymity and confidentiality is of prime importance, the fact that getting the feedback right is the ultimate goal of the 360-degree feedback form.

Myth #8: 360-degree feedback will destroy relationships

Studies have confirmed that open feedback processes are preferred by employees and it strengthens the relationship between management and the employer. When there is feedback given from multiple sources, the recipient is prone to take it as a positive step and not otherwise. Getting feedback from various quarters is also a way to get positive reviews from people which would have not been delivered otherwise as people critique more than praise. When there is a balance between the positive and negative type of feedback, there is openness to improve. There is no animosity that 360-degree feedback creates, it does not have damaging effects on relationships. If it does anything, it forges stronger relationships.

Myth #9: It has no bias

Unfortunately, there is one disadvantage when it comes to 360-degree feedback, a fatal flaw that could completely alter the results. Since feedback is taken from all quarters, it is generally believed and expected that this appraisal will give a holistic view of the employee. But there are chances that due to personal relationships, bosses and peers alike might give feedback that is biased. It is unfair when an employee who has been a terrific performer gets below par ratings when compared to someone who just happens to be in the good books of everyone and thus a recipient of favorable ratings. But the fact that all stakeholders participate in it can mitigate the effect of such bias to a reasonable extent.

Myth #10: It identifies only the weaknesses of employees

People who have no idea about the 360-degree feedback mechanism are sure to come to the conclusion that it only unearths the weaknesses of employees. This is why all the stakeholders need to be educated about how the appraisal is conducted, the reason behind conducting one and the uses associated with it. Yes, it is possible that a lot of weaknesses of the employees is unearthed, but the objective is to make the employee get their act straight by giving a path to improve.

Conclusion

A business would have come to a particular stature of respect and success because of the guidelines that it has followed over the years. There are behaviors and constructive feedback which are given at all levels. The same goes for an individual who has to have a path designed to improve their chances at their work. Feedback, measurement and rectification is how you can slowly steer someone towards success. This is where 360-degree feedback is imperative for an organization as it gets feedback from all the stakeholders involved. It helps sees everyone’s perspectives, helps see the strength and the weaknesses of employees and persuades them to be a strong pillar in the organization.

Mathew Maniyamkott
Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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