Raters and 360° Feedback
Posted on February 13, 2012 by Gail Danneman
The use of 360° feedback has continued to increase as organizations understand the value of using this assessment style. 360° feedback allows employees, managers, and the organization to gain valuable insight into one’s performance from a more varied group of raters. Performance evaluations tend to cause employees stress and anxiety. Although there are many reasons for this worry, most commonly, employees feel that his or her manager is out to get them. When 360° feedback is implemented, the presence of bias is decreased and no longer is the assessment resting on the manager’s opinion.
Is 360° feedback the perfect solution for performance appraisals? Like an appraisal system, there are flaws that should be understood by organizations and the organization should work hard to prevent inaccurate performance appraisals. We have all been in groups or work settings in which there seems to be one “odd man out” or one person that just does not seem to mesh will with the rest of the group. It is not that there is anything wrong with this employee, but there are differences in personalities. Unfortunately, this employee may be a target for poor performance evaluations.
If 360° feedback is used in a work setting that has one or more “odd men out,” the rest of the work group may subconsciously rate the employee(s) lower because they may not be in the “in group.” This is a problem because the performance evaluation results will not be accurate. The employee that does not mesh well with others may be penalized because of personality differences or not fitting in with the rest of the group.
Do you think that 360° feedback should be used in organizations? Based on current research, I believe that it can be a great tool for performance appraisals if used correctly. What I mean by this is that employees should not just be given the opportunity to rate one another and those ratings impact overall evaluations of an employee’s performance. Rather, the organization has a responsibility to prevent any forms of bias that may occur. Just because you don’t like Sally does not mean that your negative rating of her performance should impact whether or not she gets a raise.
Another problem that can be prevented is the inaccurate ratings of different constructs. When you and I hear the term, “professionalism” we may have completely different definitions of what constitutes professionalism and what clearly does not. Our difference in opinions may impact how we rate other employees unless we are provided with training. Hannum (2007) states it perfectly by saying, “One needs to be sure that the constructs or traits are perceived and operationally evaluated in the same way for all groups of raters.” If more than one rater will be evaluating an employee on different constructs (timeliness, professionalism, integrity, etc.) then it is imperative that all raters are on the same page as to what each construct truly means.
Understanding what errors can occur when using 360° feedback and how to avoid them allows an organization to gain the most from this form of evaluation. I’ll say it again; 360° feedback is a great tool when used correctly. Unfortunately, many organizations think the tool is neat, but fail to use it correctly. The results can be extremely negative when an employee is rated unfairly. I used 360° feedback at a job in college and I now know that I used the system improperly. At the time, I saw the tool as a way to state everything I didn’t like about a coworker without realizing the true impact of the ratings. I rated coworkers in this fashion because I did not know any better. I would have benefited greatly from a bit of training on the assessment tool. What I also found lacking was information regarding how the organization planned to use the evaluations. I had no idea what the appraisal system was going to impact whether it be salary, promotion, or possible termination.
How do you think organizations can use 360° most effectively? Should we continue to use it?
Reference: Hannum, K. (2007). Measurement equivalence of 360-assessment data: Are different raters rating the same constructs? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 15, 293-301.