360-Degree Feedback

Encouraging Teamwork and Improving Performance (Sometimes!)

Getting views from all directions.

© iStockphoto/sneska

When some people think about 360-degree evaluations they're reminded of a classic body image exercise where you are told to stand naked in front of a mirror and make an honest assessment of yourself. It's a frightening task to say the least. However, once you open your eyes and take an honest look, you can relatively easily scrutinize your front and sides; it's the rear that takes some work!

The same is true for work performance – yours or your employees'. There are aspects of it that you can readily identify as needing work and others parts that you know are working really well. However, with normal performance reviews, you rarely see a full picture: Your judgment is necessarily clouded by your perspective and biases. With a 360-degree evaluation you get others to fill in the "rear view" and help you see what you couldn't quite picture before.

With 360-degree feedback you gather information from the main people working with, or affected by, the person being evaluated (as well as his or her managers.) This is then amalgamated it into one full and complete image. One person can have a limited and sometimes biased view, whereas many people should provide a more accurate and more complete picture.

Not only does this create a clearer picture of areas of improvement, it also encourages teamwork. After all, there's no point in someone "sucking up to the boss" if everyone else is going to point out arrogance, unhelpfulness, and political behavior!

However it's at about this point in the explanation of 360-degree feedback that many managers gasp and raise the following types of objections:

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