360 degree feedback is a technique that brings peers, reporting staff, customers, as well as supervisors and managers, into the performance review process. It’s meant to give employees multidirectional feedback on all aspects of their job performance, as opposed to a standard performance review where an employee only hears the perspective of their manager.
With 360 feedback, employees can understand how their actions impact the business at large and all of the different moving parts and individuals within the organization.
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360 degree feedback, also known as peer or multidirectional feedback, authorizes a group of four to eight coworkers, managers, and even customers to provide feedback about a team member’s performance. As opposed to the usual employee performance review conducted by just one manager, 360 degree feedback includes (typically anonymous) feedback from several different colleagues as well as the clients and people that the employee interacts with on a regular basis.
It’s called 360 degree feedback because the feedback is solicited from all levels of the organization; rather than just hearing the perspective of a manager, the employee has the opportunity to understand how their performance is being received by coworkers across the business. How effective are they as a coworker, employee, or leader?
The focus of 360 degree feedback is on how an employee’s skills, contributions, and communication style affects the business at large as well as the people within it. It provides a balanced and contextual accounting of how others in the organization view the employee’s performance in areas such as accountability, leadership, teamwork, as well as interpersonal communication and interaction.
360 degree feedback highlights the areas of your job performance you excel at as well as the areas that need improvement. You may be excellent at making your peers laugh but have trouble meeting deadlines. You may be a workhorse who goes above and beyond to complete their work, but your stoic, standoffish attitude may make your coworkers or customers feel uncomfortable.
None of us are perfect, which means there’s always room to improve. Understanding how our own strengths and weaknesses are perceived by several different sources is as humbling as it is informative. It gives us an opportunity to consider our work performance as a whole and provides insight into how we can evolve within our role.
360 degree feedback is a chance to understand how your individual actions affect your peers and the business at large. You may get along great with your manager but struggle to make connections with the rest of your coworkers. In this case, a performance review from your manager may paint you in a different light than your peers see you. You may find yourself wondering, “If I’m doing so great, why does everyone seem to have a problem with me?”
The reverse is also true. Your coworkers may be delighted by your presence in the office or on the Slack channel every day, but your manager always gives you a hard time. Are you doing a bad job, or is that just one person’s opinion?
Receiving feedback from so many different sources provides you with a complete, 360 degree view of your job performance.
Accountability means the buck stops with you. You own your own mistakes and successes, you never shift the blame to your coworkers, you don’t shirk your duties, and you always meet the expectations set by the organization. In other words, being accountable at work means your coworkers and managers can rely on you.
360 degree feedback makes you a more well-rounded coworker and team member. You may believe you’re already accountable at work, but hearing from people across your organization lets you know if there are any areas where your accountability might be lacking.
As an organization, incorporating 360 degree feedback keeps teams accountable to each other since issues are communicated before they become larger problems. This kind of communication fosters a cohesive organization with departments, teams, and coworkers that actively listen to each other.
Consistent 360 degree feedback helps foster an environment where everyone is always trying to improve, no matter how well they’re doing. And when the feedback comes from all directions, there is sure to be an aspect of the employee’s performance that could be enhanced with constructive feedback.
Feedback works best when it’s given regularly. Continuous feedback and open communication accelerates employee development, helps teams achieve goals, and strengthens a team’s relationship. When team members continuously endeavor to help each other improve, the work never becomes stagnant, and innovation is always welcome.
Businesses that fail to embrace innovation can fall behind technologically and culturally. Today, the world is changing at a faster pace than ever before. This means businesses and the people running them need to be able to adapt. They need to manage change, learn from mistakes, and adjust in real-time to survive long-term.
Your ability to adapt is critical to your future success. Learn how to improve your adaptability and how businesses can promote adaptability in the workplace.
A notable downside to 360 degree feedback is it can result in dishonest or intentionally rude comments. If the feedback is anonymous, some may use it as an opportunity to take their coworker down a peg without any fear of blowback. If it’s their friend who is being reviewed, they may give extremely flattering feedback that’s not actually representative of the person’s performance. Raters may also band together to embellish each others’ performance as a whole.
If the feedback isn’t anonymous, coworkers may shy away from being direct and honest about a colleague’s performance for fear of offending them. This results in vague feedback that’s not useful to anyone, least of all the person being reviewed.
Some people may use 360 degree feedback as an opportunity to air grudges or grievances—especially if their feedback is anonymous. Rather than approaching the process in a constructive way, office disputes or rivalries can result in passive aggressive performance reviews that only serve to further entrench coworker animosity.
If an employee receives a poor or negative 360 review, it could alienate them in the office. Some may expect their manager to be hard on them, but when it’s the entire business critiquing their performance, it can be tough to handle. Rather than using the feedback as an opportunity to improve, they may feel that everyone is simply out to get them.
Even if their 360 degree performance review is mostly positive, employees could get hung up on the one or two negative comments they received and grow resentful of the person or people who made them. If the comments were anonymous, they might hold a grudge against the entire department the comments came from or go on a mission to seek out the individuals who gave them negative feedback.
360 degree feedback is complicated and time-consuming to implement, and if it’s adopted too quickly, it can cause organizational issues. What do you do with all that feedback? How do you decide who rates who? If the feedback is anonymous, who do you go to if you don’t understand the feedback you receive or don’t understand its context?
It’s a process that requires a buy-in from everyone from the top down, especially because it takes up working hours. For one thing, raters need to be trained on how to best deliver feedback to ensure they don’t inflate or deflate ratings based on their like or dislike of their peers.
The process requires oversight, which means HR staff or managers will need to take time away from their work to help manage how the feedback is given and received.
This doesn’t mean implementing a feedback process isn’t worth it. It just means the process needs to be implemented with care. Be patient and give your team all of the information, support, and tools they need to succeed. A poorly implemented system can cause employees to distrust each other, management, and the value behind giving and receiving feedback.
If you’re going to invest in 360 degree feedback, it should be open and not anonymous. Anonymity and secrets breed suspicion and distrust. Before implementing 360 feedback, invest in building trust and mutual understanding within your team and strengthening the bond between team members. Invest in team building exercises so team members can build rapport with one another.
Consider setting aside team building time for everyone to complete a personality test, such as Enneagrams, DiSC, or Myers-Briggs, to better understand each others’ unique personalities and communication preferences. This greater mutual understanding will help team members deliver respectful feedback that’s targeted to the individual.
Train your staff in delivering constructive feedback, and make feedback a regular occurrence. When feedback is sporadic, it comes as a surprise and puts people on edge. Consistent, expected feedback is far less intimidating, and it fosters a culture of continuous improvement.
📚 Learn more in our article Constructive Feedback: The Ultimate Guide to Giving Feedback.
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