By Jane Sunley, Author + Founder of Purple Cubed
For some reason we’ve been experiencing an increase in requests to facilitate 360-degree review. This form of employee feedback provides a holistic view of an individual through feedback (normally given anonymously) from his or her manager, peers and direct reports, and sometimes external sources such as clients or suppliers.
In an age of transparency where trust and openness are key, we’re not fans. People should be learning how to be honest and open with each other on an ongoing basis and operating in a culture and environment where that is embraced, encouraged, enabled.
With 360 there’s a danger of damaging the team dynamic, destroying confidence and creating scepticism and mistrust (even if the 360 is handled well). If people insist on doing it, they must be culturally ready, in an environment where people trust one another and are supported. This is often not the case when people want to do this. Often, they don’t understand the potential implications; there is prevailing distrust of management; or they aren’t prepared to develop people in coaching and feedback skills to a high enough level or to invest in skilled coaches to assist with the feedback process.
Imagine the scenario:
Jon, who hasn’t had any sort of formal performance review since he first joined his company as a team leader three years ago, receives an email to let him know he’s required to take part in a 360-degree appraisal. The guidance notes tell him that five of his colleagues and five of the people who report to him will be submitting anonymous feedback about his performance. He and his line manager will fill out a similar form and he’ll be sent a report with the results that he can discuss with his line manager. Jon feels he’s doing a decent job though no one ever really tells him either way. He’s quite a reserved person who keeps himself to himself and doesn’t really go all out to make himself popular with other team members. He prefers to concentrate on getting the job done. He’s a firm though fair manager though does have quite a lot of performance issues to deal with, mainly due to poor recruitment which he isn’t involved in as it’s dealt with by a separate recruitment team.
He’s worried; he’s suspicious and sceptical about the process and really starts to worry about the whole exercise. The next day there’s a strange atmosphere at work, people look worried. They ask each other about the 360 and start to speculate as to what it will mean for them. Some people are really looking forward to being able to tell the management what they think about their colleagues and managers.
You can imagine how this could play out…
A far better alternative method of ensuring people understand themselves and others would be to use psychometric testing. Used in a facilitated team feedback session, this can provide more useful and robust insights than 360 as it’s more transparent and objective. This allows people to explore their team dynamic with one another more openly, driving ongoing dialogue and if externally facilitated creates a safe environment within which to interact, providing a sound basis for future feedback exchange.
Unfortunately, we’ve sometimes been brought in at the back end of disaster whereby well-meaning leadership teams have decided to adopt 360 without full understanding and experience, and then had to deal with the fall out. Remember, it’s far more challenging to rebuild than it is to do the damage in the first place…
What are your experiences?.
Purple Cubed is a high-end boutique people consultancy offering expertise and tools for organisations that want to improve business results and growth through harnessing the power of their people.