Without support 360 feedback can actually do more harm than good.
Susan studied her 360 feedback report in disbelief. She had thought she was a higher performer. Many of the ratings were good, but many were not. Who did these people think they were anyway? And what were they thinking? Susan started looking for another job and soon quit.
Susan’s organization was trying to provide helpful developmental feedback to its employees but went about it the wrong way. By not providing Susan and other employees with an environment that was conducive to receiving the feedback and the support systems necessary to make good use of the data, they did more harm than good.
But across the street, Art got his 360 report during a self-development class. This class taught that nurturing your strengths was important. The teacher explained how raters had been advised to treat the tool as an improvement mechanism, not a “gotcha” opportunity. Art was trained to view feedback as just one step in a process. There would be high and low ratings, items that were critical to success, and some less so. He would pick several to focus on.
He knew he’d construct an action plan and then work it, like any other plan. He’d review it with his manager. Everyone else in the class would do the same thing. And he had a coach. While it would be Art's process to own and manage, there would be someone he could bounce ideas off.Feedback Is Data
Multi-rater feedback is only data. Like any other kind of data, it requires a process for acting on it and cannot be an effective stand-alone development event.
Why does 360 feedback need steps around it to improve performance? First, people are not as trained in self-improvement as they are in their specialty areas, and they need extra guidance. Second, most people have too much to do at work. Priorities come and go. Self-development is often treated as one of those priorities. In a 2001 issue of Educational Leadership
, author Karen Dyer said: “The 360-degree feedback process can be a powerful tool, but only if it is used wisely and judiciously.”
If one person improves, it makes a positive dent. If 50 people improve, departmental results change. Deadlines get hit better and errors go down. Positive synergies happen.