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Are 360 degree feedbacks a good tool?

360s give the subject of an appraisal feedback from a variety of people and perspectives; e.g. supervisors, direct reports, co-workers and even customers. However, this arguably more rounded method is to be approached with caution if it’s being seen as “ the answer” because:

  • Any “evaluation” tool that’s widely adopted within status quo organisations is built on the assumptions those same organisations need to challenge to move forward. For example, it remains a process of judging and evaluating someone else - the new paradigm questions whether this is a good idea at all: we would never put our spouse through this, so why our colleagues?
  • They’re frequently based on the same components and methodologies that are so problematic of the annual appraisal: obligatory to undergo; standardised questions; rankings; kept on file; adopted organisation wide regardless of circumstance; delivered around the calendar rather than the work etc.
  • Allowing for a wide variety of personal perspectives doesn’t necessarily make for highly objective feedback: a group can be just as skewed or manipulative as an individual
  • The results are normally gathered and delivered by management; in which case, it’s still processed via the same management lens (and all its biases) – it doesn’t flow from peer to peer relationships and accountability
  • They tend to focus on an individual’s weaknesses as opposed to their strengths. The old paradigm is concerned with how we improve an individual to fit them into a role; the new paradigm is concerned with how we change a role to fit around an individual’s strengths
  • Lastly, 360s are normally done anonymously, which only perpetuates a culture that says “we aren’t comfortable having honest conversations out in the open”
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  1. John Featherby

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