360 degree performance appraisal

The Dangers of 360 Performance Appraisal Concept

The basic idea of 360 Performance Appraisal involves getting performance feedback not only from your ‘boss’ but from employees, customers and everyone who you get to work with as well. This, of course, does make a lot of sense. It is a healthy exercise that everyone should do to sync up with the expectations (aka psychological contract) your associates have of you. Valuable insight is to be found in the feedback and opinions of those we work and interact with. As a result, the all-around feedback derives the 360-degree name.

However, you should not be jumping on this performance appraisal bandwagon as the 360 concept raises a few major concerns.

1. Appraisal Equals Review

The more accurate naming for performance ‘appraisal’ is performance ‘review’ since it’s the final stage performance evaluation and management process, which involves clarification and setting of performance expectations first. Performance review is an actual review comparison of expectations versus work done during the review period. This data is often used for further employee promotion, development and even when making compensation decisions. And if you’ve ever been to a performance review, you know that it’s never about discovering how well you performed or what you had to do during the review period. You, as an employee, should always be aware of your individual performance during the review period in relation to what’s expected.

Performance review is principally between the supervisor and the employee. While discovering how the employee met client or subordinate expectations may be insightful, it is already too late to learn this information as the review period is already over. Best practices suggest that the feedback should be given continually throughout the period and results of the feedback reviewed at the end of the performance review.

In cases when the third-party perception of you is of key importance to your job, then assessment and measurement of that feedback are most-likely already included in your job description. After all, if you think about it, an effective salesperson does not need a third-party to tell them whether their customers are pleased with the service.

2. Secrecy Promotes Ill Culture

The 360 appraisals are commonly put into practice through confidential surveys. Anonymous surveys are often used, so everyone can give an honest rating to peers and supervisors in confidence they won’t be approached because of what they had to say. The feedback data is then aggregated and added to employee ‘appraisal’ and rating. Considering the impact of aggregated data and its potential effect on the employee in question all dangers of low validity and subjectivity of peer evaluation should be considered. To top it off, there are a few general concerns regarding anonymous surveys which can be summed up with these questions.

What would you think of an organization that uses secret reports to judge its employees?

Does the company really live up to being open, transparent and honest when anonymity is at the core of measuring employee value?

Would you want your organization to be perceived and run this way?

There is a great number of talented employees who resent being asked to anonymously rate their colleagues. They refuse to subjectively judge the performance of their peers, admitting to wonder who is writing things about them. Supervisor feedback is of little use too as they have trouble figuring out the actual source of the issue which makes attempts to resolve it significantly less effective. To reiterate, anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes and other types of secret feedback basically reveal the fact that employees have concerns regarding supervisor bias towards their opinions, or readiness to consider and take needed action. Essentially, secrecy in team relationships are doing more harm than good and are especially damaging in supervisor-employee relationships.

3. Blind Following of Popular Practices

The most common reasoning behind adopting the use of 360 appraisal program is, in fact, that every other organization is using it. Unfortunately, researching and testing of the usefulness and practicality of the concept is rarely performed. Instead of blindly justifying promoted theories, it is best to perform a deeper analysis before partaking in the expensive administrative nightmare.

4. Why Not Break the Mold?

If you really have the intention of improving communication and performance through feedback between employees, from subordinates, customers, and peers, then try taking the following steps:

  • Make giving, receiving and analyzing performance feedback a requirement for all employees.
  • Research and determine the fields and what kinds of feedback are
  • Find or develop the means of capturing feedback.
  • Train employees to use the tools to capture and give performance feedback.
  • Teach employees to analyze received feedback and extract insightful information.
  • Educate users to give objective and constructive feedback to fellow employees, supervisors, etc.
  • Set the requirement to regularly (perhaps monthly or bi-weekly) review captured feedback. Consider having supervisors review and discuss conclusions with their employees.

Going shopping for performance appraisals of any kind is already a step in the wrong directions. In the majority of cases, organizations forget to diagnose the real reason for the need in appraisals strategies. If you desire to implement an appraisal process ask yourself ‘Why do I need it?’, ‘What is the purpose?’. Answer these questions and figure out the appropriate ways of attaining feedback within your company.