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360 Degree Feedback Pros and Cons

When using the 360 degree feedback approach, everyone involved with an employee gets the chance to provide feedback about their performance. This includes more than just their managers and any direct reports. It also includes other co-workers, customers, and even networking relationships within other organizations. By drawing information from several resources, the goal is simple: to get a complete picture of what a person is doing.

There are certain advantages to using the 360 degree feedback approach and certain disadvantages that must be considered as well. Here are some of the key pros and cons to consider.

What Are the Pros of 360 Degree Feedback?

1. It provides a broader perspective on an employee.
In the manager/employee relationship, tunnel vision tends to develop. Certain decisions tend to define the employee in good or bad ways. By opening up the evaluation process to all those with whom an employee interacts, the broader perspective goes past defining decisions to the every day decisions and actions instead.

2. It can improve morale.
Employees who are fighting on the front lines of business every day often feel like their efforts are unappreciated. With 360 degree feedback in place, it gives employees a chance to see that there is a purpose to their work and that their efforts are being noticed. Of course the opposite can also happen – if no one does notice their efforts, the employee might very well just throw up their hands and quit.

3. It encourages closer networking.
People who are invited to provide feedback during a 360 degree evaluation feel important. It makes participants feel like the company values their opinion, especially when the request involves a customer or a B2B client. This can help to foster the relationship, encourage it to grow, and even result in a sale or two if a company plays its cards correctly.

4. It provides the chance for a more accurate snapshot.
Ultimately a performance review is just a snapshot of an employee’s overall performance. Many things that people do every day go unnoticed just because of the nature of the modern business world. There is always the chance that a 360 degree snapshot isn’t going to be 100% accurate, but when there are many voices instead of just one voice, the chances of accuracy improve.

What Are the Cons of 360 Degree Feedback?

1. The results can be misleading.
People are usually out for their own interests first when they are at work. Far too often 360 degree feedback is used to determine raises or promotions, so skewed feedback can often lead to inaccurate results. Maybe a co-worker wants the same promotion and so they decide to sabotage the feedback. Some people don’t even want to take the time to give feedback, which means they’ll say anything to get a manager off of their back.

2. Untrained people are asked to give trained feedback.
Most employees are not trained to observe behaviors. The average employee doesn’t even have a full view of what the long term vision of a company happens to be. It becomes impossible for them to gauge an employee’s performance if they don’t have the information necessary to properly evaluate it themselves.

3. The costs can by quite high.
Imagine it takes 1 hour to fill out a 360 degree feedback evaluation form. Now you’ve asked three managers and 5 employees to fill out this documentation for the employee review. You’ve just lost 8 hours of productivity to fill out paperwork in addition to the time the direct manager must spend on the review as well.

4. There’s a higher chance of feedback rejection.
If there is strong negative feedback given during a 360 degree evaluation, then there’s a good chance that the feedback will be rejected as false. That goes against the purpose of having the evaluation in the first place. Performance evaluations are designed to help employees improve and continue to grow, but unfortunately this tends to not happen with this type of evaluation. There is a direct correlation in the strength of a negative comment and the likelihood that it will be ignored.

There are certain challenges that must be addressed when using 360 degree feedback. The bias factor must be removed for this method of information gathering to be accurate. If that can be managed, however, then the snapshot of an employee’s performance and conduct can provide the necessary feedback needed to create future growth.

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