I had the opportunity to provide individual 360 feedback to a group of middle level managers group last week. As I’ve written before, I find many things intriguing about the process. I also try to learn the lessons of other research when providing the feedback so it is less painful for participants who do not have favorable reports.
There’s always some expectation of “surprise” from the ratings as not everyone is a great social monitor. However, where I do not understand this is when participants say they are surprised by their manager’s ratings. This feedback is more valuable for the manager (why aren’t you having these kinds of conversations with your direct reports?) than the participant. If the 360 process opens up this dialogue, then it has been at least a partial success.
Of course, people whose reports are generally good are more accepting of the areas where they can improve than those with poorer results. But, even among the latter group it is always interesting to see the level of acceptance of the feedback. It generally ranges from “My manager just doesn’t like me” (see above) to “I work primarily by myself, so I don’t see how my peers could evaluate me” to “I think people used Neutral instead of Not Applicable. That’s why the ratings are so low.” One can only assume that this ability to dismiss/rationalize data is one of the contributors to the lower job performance.
The organization had done good leg work in preparing this group for the process, including having the executive team go through it first. That established sufficient trust in the confidentiality of the data. Seeing that, and the subsequent development activities, established buy-in. However, HR will still have to prove itself to others, which is to be expected from such a large group.
My message to the participants was that the 360 was the beginning of the development process, not the end. While insight is nice, action (classroom training, special assignments, shifting behaviors, etc.) is what leads to change. I hope that they took it to heart.
For more information on the 360 feedback process, please contact Warren Bobrow.