Organizational Consultation XXVIII: Multi-Source Assessment (360-Degree Feedback)
Given the credibility of the feedback, the recipient is faced with the task of learning something new about himself. As a learner, the 360-Degree participant must be willing to seek out additional feedback to gain greater clarity about areas for further development. Feedback recipients must be willing to live outside their comfort zone and must be willing to “take the risk of engaging in activities that challenge their skills and abilities.”
A poorly administered 360-Degree feedback process is likely to create yet another psychological storm. This storm arises from the alternation of relationships with colleagues that many 360-Degree feedback processes produce. In most instances, the feedback one receives comes from anonymous sources. The feedback recipient typically doesn’t know specifically who has rated him, though the recipient usually has helped to create a list of potential raters.
Thus, when the feedback is received, the employee will inevitably wonder who filled out the rating form and why they rated him as they did. The feedback recipient often would like to talk with those who completed the rating yet does not feel this can be done without shattering the anonymity and confidentiality barriers. These are perfect conditions for mild paranoia and for an employee to project his own fears and uncertainties about self onto other people with whom he works. Without adequate follow-up, a 360-Degree feedback process can destroy a sense of teamwork (Function Four) and create a climate of suspicion and mistrust.
The message is clear. 360-Degree feedback processes are powerful and they must be handled, like any other powerful weapon, with great care. Irreparable damage can be done. Much good can come from the use of two and three tier assessments, yet these appraisals must be done in a thoughtful and appreciative manner, with substantial follow-up and a direct tie-in with the strategies of development and empowerment.