Organizational Consultation XXVIII: Multi-Source Assessment (360-Degree Feedback)
Recent research suggests that only forty percent of the multi-source feedback systems are linked to development program that specifically address the areas being assessed in the 360-Degree feedback. Much of the bad press regarding 360-Degree feedback processes is generated by this insensitive and often abusive policy of providing the feedback without any follow-up coaching or consulting services.
Multi-Source Feedback and Professional Development
As the leaders of the Center for Creative Leadership have repeatedly noted, the qualities being assessed in a 360-Degree feedback process should always be developable, whether this process is being used for personnel decisions (Function One) or for development (Function Two). The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has been at the forefront of leadership development programs and 360-Degree feedback processes for many years; hence, the insights of CCL staff regarding the essential link between 360-Degree feedback processes and development should be given credence:
Although it is useful to gain self-knowledge about aspects of character that are stable (and therefore not changeable), it is important for managers to know that characteristics being assessed are also amenable to development, especially when improvement is the goal. Behavioral or otherwise observable items forming scales that relate to practices or perspectives one can change are the most useful form for 360-Degree feedback, in that it enables managers to engage in a goal-setting and development-planning process that enhances involvement and self-determination.
A 360-Degree feedback process can generate several additional psychological storms even if presented in a thoughtful and appreciative manner. First, the data from other people in the organization can disconfirm an employee’s sense of self. Substantial research suggests that there is usually greater concurrence in the ratings of peers, subordinates and superiors, than there is between the self-ratings of an employee and any one of these three groups of raters.
Employees are likely to be surprised by the appraisals being offered by other people in their organization. The employees who are least effective and most likely to receive negative feedback are particularly vulnerable, for research studies indicate that these employees are likely to be most surprised by the feedback they receive. They are particularly inclined to over-rate their own performance. Atwater suggests that this disconfirmation is particularly difficult for poor performers with high self-esteem: