The Pros And Cons Of 360° Feedback

A common and increasingly popular tool, or method being used in employee evaluations and performance management is 360° feedback. It’s so-called because it asks for feedback on the employee from all directions and angles – managers, subordinate workers and peers.

With 360° feedback, assessors aren’t restricted to just a manager’s perspective, the thoughts, feelings and opinions of many other people who work or interact with the employee are solicited and used.

The feedback is almost always anonymous, and so is invariably honest. This isn’t always a huge bonus, though, as sometimes reviews – although anonymous – can be hurtful or discouraging and some managers aren’t as keen on this form of feedback as they are on more traditional forms of appraisal. If your company is using a 360° feedback tool such as the ones available from Cascade HR systems, then here’s a quick rundown of the advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

Feedback from lots of different sources

Good quality, balanced 360° feedback must come from lots of different perspectives. Someone’s line manager sees the person very differently to the way the receptionist does. The manager might see the habitual five-minute-late start, but the receptionist sees the round of coffees from the vending machine that causes the lateness.

It points out opportunities for development

Employees need to be ready to grow and develop and the areas where this is needed can be identified through objective feedback. The feedback might highlight poor communication skills or prioritising abilities, and so these deficit areas can be put into a long-term plan.

It focuses on key skills and competencies

A feedback tool can be adjusted or developed to suit the core needs and skills of the company. These competencies are the “gold standard” of the company’s interactions and behaviour.

The cons

The feedback might not be trustworthy

Not all feedback will be objective, honest or even well-intended. People have biases they’re not aware of (or indeed, they may be aware) and these leanings might influence the nature and veracity of the feedback.

It can be harsh

Sometimes the truth hurts and employees need to be able to take it on the chin and learn from it. Good managers can help an employee through a savaging and make sure they use it constructively.

Smaller companies might not benefit

There needs to be at least six reviewers so that there are many different perspectives and work relationships to build up an effective picture of the employee. In smaller companies, there may not be enough people to provide this.

Employees can fixate on the bad

Everyone is going to get negative feedback and it can be hard work to absorb it and use it maturely. Very often, employees deny the “charges” (as they see them) and ask “Who said that?” rather than “How can I change this?” Negative feedback can cause resentment and suspicion in the workplace. All feedback (unless obviously motivated by spite) needs to be handed constructively and not taken personally. It’s a valuable opportunity to gain objective perspective and to use it to aim higher.