IT Employment

3 reasons to use 360 degree evaluations


Most companies' leaders have a very unrealistic view about how they are assessed by those who are at levels below them.

Usually, they think they're "in touch." Usually, they're not.

Some years ago, I was working with the COO of a large company in the retail sector. He was planning a significant reorganization and we were discussing the potential issues he might face when it was announced. A few C-Level members of his leadership team would no longer be reporting to him as a result of this plan. They would soon be reporting to the president, who was their peer currently. I asked how they might act after learning they were moving "down the organization" reporting-wise:"Would they quit? If so, would their departures screw up the hoped-for positive benefits of the new organization structure?"

He assured me they wouldn't. He told me the president had stated (while they developed the plan) that each of these other execs had told him in earlier conversations they would prefer to report to him.

I'll bet any reader can guess what I said at that point: "Why would someone tell his or her peer that they'd prefer to report to them as opposed to reporting to the COO?" The boss didn't have an answer - had just trusted his president when he said it.

I made some recommendations about doing a little due diligence to try to assess how these individuals may actually respond so he could be prepared beforehand. But - like many such organizational changes - the announcement couldn't be held back because it was "urgent"." They went ahead.

Once again, I'll bet any reader can guess what happened: Some of the affected execs quit. Turned out they viewed the new org chart as a demotion and bailed with nice severance packages.

Rather than streamlining process decisions and bureaucracy; the COO actually created chaos.

How could this colossal mistake have been prevented?

With 360-degree evaluations done on a fairly regular basis.

Whether managed by outside organizations or internally by the HR function, if the COO had these in hand when he was listening to the president, he would have realized that the president wasn't correct. He may have then surmised that the president was probably more concerned with his own status then the long-term success of the retail chain. He may have realized that the pres was feathering his own nest.

I'm still surprised at how few organizations - small or large - take the time to do these assessments. Here's why they should use 360s: 1. Wake-up Call - A negative assessment of a manager by those above, below, and peer to them is very telling. If everyone thinks someone is a pumpkinhead, but you think he's swell; chances are that you've got a brown-noser on your hands and didn't know it. This will alert you to be more concerned about the veracity of his advice. 2. Early Warning System - If most assessors think this guy is no good, you can act to ensure he doesn't cause a great deal of damage. That may be a development program, using a coach, or simply sitting with the individual and spelling out what you want done to correct his behavior or actions. 3. Morale Building - Most of us hate to see someone conning our boss. It bugs us that he's not smart enough to see he's being conned and it bugs us that the con artist is getting away with something that is wrong. In such situations, it's easy to start to feel like our hard work and loyalty aren't valued or may be misplaced; we may decide to quietly back off because those don't seem to be qualities which are required any longer. When we have the opportunity to speak honestly about those around us, it makes us part of the solution. That feels good. (As long as something is done about the jerk.)

Even when money is in short supply, or the company is pretty small, I urge you to use these evaluations. It will cost you a lot more if you choose to wait.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

30 comments
sjaffar
sjaffar

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techrepublic2007
techrepublic2007

Sorry, I've been burned too may times at work by the "ANONYMOUS" company survey and 360. Only to have the survey results tallied to the department level, which is in the under 20 and sometimes single digit head count. And the "Problem" workers end up as "Other" in the pie chart - meaning either they did not participate or failed to identify themselves, which actually identified them if you know what i mean. As for the 360 - DO YOU REALLY want to put in writing that your boss if a #ucking Idiot, Is BIpolar, is horrible at communication, to their boss in a 360 and want to work with this person for another year. The boss will track you down especially if your not one of the drinking buddies, etc.

TigerGeek
TigerGeek

I will paraphrase a statistics professor I had. It's all in how you present the information. Peer review, 360 review, will not be used in HR performance reviews, blah blah blah. Having a system that actually works is the goal, not someones pre-packaged "process" or "feedback system". I have been through malcom baldridge award(we got it), ISO 9000(we got it) and ITIL certified. You cannot fix bad management with a system. You just spent alot of money and time to realize you have bad management. They will get rid of the system by saying it didn't fit the company's vision statement, or other nonsense. What are the performance criteria used for subordinate to manager(I wish it were leader) review? I have worked for some great companies that succeed in spite of, not because of bad management.

mikifin
mikifin

I have worked in four industries and a handful of jobs. I can count the number of good manager's on less than half of one hand. Upper management doesn't wants to pay for a good manager but will bitch to high heaven when things don't get done right. A good manager is worth more than his/her weight in diamonds.

mandrake64
mandrake64

If you are being honest with yourself, then there is no reason why 360 degree reviews will not work for you. View them as both a positive and negative feedback on your own performance. Ensure you cast a wide net for your participants. Ask those who work FOR you directly, those who work WITH you (your peers) and those you initiate tasks for (those beyond your section who are providing a service). Do not dismiss terse feedback because you will almost surely receive it. Instead, use it to modify your own behaviour.

mangeloni
mangeloni

I worked for a bully, misogynistic, back-stabbing, gossip-mongering boss. The staff had to do a 360 evaluation of him. Of course he got very poor results - and his excuse was that 'nobody ever got high scores anyway.' HR NEVER followed through in getting him to improve. In the end - he forced me out of my job and got to keep his.

The Dalles Dweller
The Dalles Dweller

I'm not familiar with this method. Does anyone have any suggestions of where to get info about this?

armstrongb
armstrongb

I worked at Lockheed Martin for many years and they used 360 evals. I was tasked with picking 3 people to review me. Of course, I chose people who I was fairly certain would give me a positive review. Every year, we would review each other so I knew exactly who was reviewing me. It seemed like a giant waste of time and did not provide much in the way of feedback on how I could be better at my job. It was basically a popularity contest. Even worse, in the Lockheed organization, line managers often had no idea what their workers actually did. A person who is a fine Manager of Finance may not be such a great leader of software development. So the 360's which were supposed to balance out the inability of the manager to assess their employee based on their quality of work really muddies the waters. One of the many reasons why I left Lockheed.

Hot Face
Hot Face

360 degree evaluation is not a new thing. We tried it more than thirty years ago at a government agency. What it did accomplish was: 1. Cheap shots taken at Supervisors and Peers alike 2. A competitively nasty environment (You found out [secretly, of course] that your best friend was stabbing you in the back to get that next promotion) 3. A difficult process in trying to compare multiple evaluations and kick out the real crap 4. Obviated good team work 5. Created a lot of animosity 6. Impacted employee morale 7. Resulted in lack of truism in many evaluations Positives: 1. None that I can think of

$dunk$
$dunk$

While in the ideal world I can see the value in being appraised across the spectrum as a great opportunity to learn your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, in the real world it doesn't work that way. The main reason is that people aren't honest, and even if they want to be honest then their honesty usually ends up not having the desired effect. For example, most people will give great reviews to their *friends*. Naturally, because they expect the same consideration in return. Thus, the *popular* people have a boatload of positive reviews having little to do with their real performance. And for those who take it seriously and put both the positive and areas of improvement. They'll find out that management only cherry picks the negative things and then hammers the person you meant to offer helpful advice too. Of course, if they like the person then they'll ignore your suggested areas of improvement altogether. Also, just because a person doesn't put their name on their appraisal doesn't mean they will be anonymous. It's not that hard to look at comments and figure out where they may have come from. While the idea has merit. It doesn't work in the real world.

mjongeward
mjongeward

This blog is way off! The indication is that a company should use 360's to find the negatives about an employee. Nothing could be further from the truth. 360's should be used to make a good employee better. To find the positives a company can build on and any weakness that an employee can work on to be a better employee. The results of a 360 are only to be seen by the employee in detail. The manager a high level summary only, and HR gets no information so the results cannot be used against the emplyee. They are never to be used for the reasons listed in this blog.

Shriks
Shriks

HR talks about 360 degrees but in the last 2 yrs I have not seen any 360 eval happening. So the ball rolls down one way only and people below are impacted - esp. project managers - that they are held responsibile for every miss and the upper mgmt takes the credit for every hit. appraisal fndings of uppre mgmt applies for the lower level people, but not the other way round.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My evaluations so far have been pretty much informal, of the "You're doing very well, got any complaints?" variety. We're a good bit larger now, though, so I expect to start seeing more formal evals.

cynthiafschan
cynthiafschan

Our company does have 360 processes tools to use. However, management does not incorporate feedback into performance assessments.

nijole.simkus
nijole.simkus

I agree 360 feedback is only anonymous when you say what your boss wants to hear. Should you dare to be honest, you are summons to the bosses office to be told 'we worked out what you said in the feedback. If you have a problem do you want to discuss it further?' I for one will never participate in any type of feedback again! Because you can't tell your blonde boss, she is a 'Bimbo', completely incompetent and everyone knows how she got the job in the first place!

techrepublic2007
techrepublic2007

For those people who work in small groups. These are for the really lazy boss, you list all the great stuff you did all year, it gets downplayed in the review. Because the boss didnt know what you did all year (wink) But boss man has the 1, 2,or 3 little minute things the went wrong. (He's keeping track of these alright, but not the good stuff) He blows these way out of proportion in the review to make you sound like an idiot stupid worker.

$dunk$
$dunk$

We use it too, but fortunately I haven't seen it turn into the disaster that you have seen it. At least not yet. The only people who like it seems to be Management. I think there's a Dilbert skit in this somewhere. "It doesn't matter if it's the right thing to do, it only matters that we're doing something."

PhilmNZ
PhilmNZ

My experience precisely As they were employed here, they actually missed the only signifant issue that concerned the staff. A good idea poorly employed by consultants, results in an expensive poor idea!

akhild
akhild

In my organization also they have initiated 360 degree appraisal for middle managerial levels but have failed to understand how effective and relevant it is to apply in flat structured organizational design wherein you have very limited reporting staff and your interactions with peers is very limited across the board.To me it appears to more relevant and appropriate for a hirearchy oriented organization structure. I have myself undergone through this and have a feeling that lot of questions related to strategic alignment will be irrelevant if transparency is not part of the organization culture as they intend to keep their strategies locked inside closed doors and senior executives fail to share with their staff. Under such circumstances how relevant will be 360degree appraisal feedback when problems lie somewhere else rather than down the line. There are lot of questions which lot of peer subbordinates in a flat structure will hardly experience because of reporting structure and the responses will be a negative one or do not know about it. Such results will lead to unrealistic evaluation of the individual rather than a realistic tool to give a fair feedback to the individual.

marcos
marcos

We have used 360 degree evaluation for many years, (in the real world) and we have found it usefull, only if you have objetives and methodology for do that. With one alone evaluation have no use for the results, you need to make a profile, and make a feedback for meet development objetives for every person evaluated, then, in the next evaluation, you compare the new profile result with the prior, and you find, if the person grow with/inside/or push the organization. Only in this form, everyone have idea for "what need to do" for grow in an organization, and then, work for that. For design the evaluation you need find firs, what you need to evaluate, and what skills need for every rol. In this escenario, the tool is usefull, because you suppose that everyone try to grow, obviously also you can find if the person don't wont to grow.

PhilDevine
PhilDevine

I could not disagree more with this blog and completely agree with mjongeward. To use any form of evaluation/appraisal in this manner is detrimental and counter productive to the whole process of evaluations; the core function of which is to provide feedback to an individual on their performance with a view to continual improvement; praising the positive and providing an opportunity to discuss/improve on the negative. John McKee is pitching way out of the square. The reality is that when any evaluation is used in this manner, its overall affect on the appraisal culture within an organisation is a negative one.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

I agree with the poster above that the results of 360s have to be confidential, also that a bit more positivity is a good thing. Both in what people say and how it is used. How often do bosses get told that something they're doing is great by a subordinate? It's pretty rare. Part of the problem also is that to do a proper 360 it has to be done anonymously or people won't open up - so you need a third party to organise it, which costs money. When we do reviews we always talk about how the employee is doing as well as how they think the manager is doing and the business as a whole - people will criticise process as well as strategy but they never speak up about the manager because either they dont want to back stab, or they dont want to be confrontational. Getting this very valuable feedback if you can't afford to get an external in, is very hard.

mevered
mevered

Some employees use 360 degrees to "get back at the boss" e.g. for getting less than expected raises/bonuses following previous "above average performance" assessments that led to their promotion. Anyone in a new position is NOT going to score at the same rate as they did prior to promotion in the first couple of months. People often pre-judge others, even tho the others' performance and behaviour is being orchestrated and even dictated to, by their superiors and the puppeteer is invisible to those doing the 360 assessment. Different immigrant cultures, in N. America, can use 360 to hit out (often unjustifiably) at what they see as racist bosses when in fact their managers are just following legal and objective corporate requirements for rating performance. When it comes to 360 all I can say is Caveat Emptor and DO NOT use it as a sole criterion to judge others.

CharlieGolf2
CharlieGolf2

Came across a 360 feedback site that offers a very low cost subscription service with 3 questionnaires to choose from, and thay allow you to add your own company logos. its located at www.factors360.com

coyotech
coyotech

Sometimes evaluations are used purely legitimately and sometimes not, whether they are 360 or not. Any manager, like any employee, has areas they need to improve. Maybe a little, maybe alot. If those who know a manager's skills best (those he manages) are never heard, then his managing skills will probably never improve and may even deteriorate. This is very bad for a company. One bad manager can do enormous harm. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

dmartin
dmartin

I agree with phildevine. the 360 process can be extremely valuable when used in the positive as opposed to the negative. a 360 can identify the areas of development that will make a successful employee an even greater success. with the costs incurred on a business to hire, train and maintain good employees growing more and more, not to mention the difficulty in retaining quality staff, most businesses want to make the most out of what their staff can deliver. anonymous surveys from superiors, peers and subordinates on the specific areas of focus that are important to your particular organization or function can be great opportunities for employees and can bridge misunderstandings and misconceptions and provide great opportunities for the individual as well as the business.

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

The information can be 100% truthful, 100% false, or somewhere in between. Some review and insight into contradictory responses would be wise. However, they can be a tool to start a conversation to see where some negative perceptions come from. Also, the evals can be manipulated to the VP's advantage. In our case, the VP did not have enough direct reports to adequately make the respondents anonymous (from HR's perspective?), so they lumped in another group into his evaluation. It became impossible to tell who they were referring to in the eval. Could have been the VP's input into the process which allowed this to happen. So - Moral here - Make sure the data is collected in a meaningful manner.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Dude, just admit it's where you work. It doesn't count as spam if it's an on-topic reply to an existing discussion.

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