Organizational Consultation XXVIII: Multi-Source Assessment (360-Degree Feedback)
These individuals tended not to accept negative feedback because it was inconsistent with their self-perceptions. This pattern creates a vicious cycle wherein the high self-esteem perpetuates inaccurate self-perception by causing individuals to deny information that contradicts their high opinions of themselves. The implications of these findings about self-esteem . . . suggest a particular problem if the high self-esteem is unfounded and negative feedback is needed. If the feedback is discounted so as to maintain the positive self-esteem, it will be difficult to convince these individuals that change is necessary.
Appreciative Multi-Source Feedback
An appreciative approach to 360-Degree feedback can help to alleviate some of this shock. The appreciative feedback that an employee receives focuses on strengths and opportunities, rather than deficits and barriers. In learning about his strengths and capabilities, as well as viewing problem areas as opportunities, the feedback recipient can sustain high self-esteem, while also facing the challenge of change and reconfigured images of self. An appreciative approach can also be helpful in this regard because it is always leaning into the future. Feedback recipients are encouraged to forge an image of successful functioning that helps to guide and sustain the employee through the difficult and often destabilizing processes of personal change. Any 360-Degree feedback process will inevitably produce some discomfort with regard to sense of self and level of self-esteem. However, appreciative feedback is much more likely to enable a recipient to turn this discomfort into learning and development than is feedback that has been infused with deficits.
The force of the data received in a 360-Degree feedback process creates a second storm for its recipients. While it is easy to dismiss the feedback from a boss or from a direct report, it is much harder to dismiss this feedback when it comes from several sources and these sources tend to agree with one another. The increasingly reliability and validity of the 360-Degree tools that are being used produces even greater threat. There is no way to escape from or discount these finely wrought statistics.