How Culture Impacts 360-Degree Feedback

August 31, 2016 by Sandra Mashihi

 “Culture is a framework in which we communicate.” -Stephen Roberts 

There is increasing use of 360-degree feedback in different cultures and countries, as multi-national companies use it throughout their organizations. Differences in 360-degree feedback rating and interpretation should be expected to some degree in other cultures. Some dimensions that appear to be important include individualism versus collectivism, power distance, and gender egalitarianism.

Recently, Eckert, Ekelund, Gentry, and Dawson (2010) investigated self-observer rating discrepancies on three leadership skills on data from 31 countries.   They reported that rater discrepancy on a manager’s decisiveness and composure was higher in high power distance cultures (e.g. Asian) than low power distance cultures (e.g. Americas).

Atwater and her colleagues (2009) explored self and subordinate ratings of leadership in 964 managers from 21 countries, based on assertiveness, power distance, and individualism or collectivism. Self and other ratings were more positive in countries characterized as high in assertiveness and power distance.

In the U.S., lack of self-awareness predicts performance, but this metric was less useful in five European countries (U.K., Germany, Denmark, Italy, and France). In European countries, only others’ ratings of leadership predicted managerial effectiveness. Cultural relevance was compared across five countries (US, Ireland, Israel, The Philippines, and Malaysia), and this supported the overall effectiveness of the 360-degree feedback process but also revealed important differences (Shipper, Hoffman, & Rotondo, 2007). This study suggested that the 360-degree feedback process is relevant in all cultures but most effective in those low on power distance with individualistic values (e.g., United States versus Philippines).

Eckert, Ekelund, Gentry, and Dawson (2010) investigated self-observer rating discrepancies on three leadership skills on data from 31 countries.

Finally, research on 360-degree feedback across 17 countries by Robie, Kaster, Nilsen, and Hazucha (2000) suggests that, overall, there were more similarities than differences across countries. For example, the ability to solve complex problems and learn quickly appears to be universally predictive of effectiveness for leaders.

Taken together, these results show that cultural values predict self-other ratings, but coaches should consider culture when helping clients interpret and use 360-degree feedback systems. This is particularly important when multi-national companies begin to implement 360-degree feedback programs for any purpose across the entire organization.

Coach’s Critique: 

As I coach and debrief clients on their 360s, I notice significant various differences in reception and interpretation of results as a result of cultural backgrounds. I notice that individuals of Western cultures tend to appreciate the 360 degree process as a whole. For example, I have found that many of my clients of Eastern backgrounds tend to emphasize the importance of the ratings of their direct reports, while individuals of Westerns cultures tend view their feedback as more useful. In addition, I have found that individuals of cultures that are higher in power distance tend to view the 360 process as an evaluation or test, rather than a process of gauging various perceptions.

Because these cultural differences naturally exist, coaches and facilitators of 360s need to be cognizant in participants cultural background and how it could play a role in interpretation and reception of feedback results. Perhaps, they can spend a bit of time assessing participants view of the 360 process in order to ensure his or her understanding of it.

What has been your experience with how participants culture, and its effect on reception and interpretation of feedback. Do you find differences between some cultures vs others?

Dr. Sandra Mashihi is a senior consultant with Envisia Learning, Inc. She has extensive experience in sales training, behavioral assessments and executive coaching. Prior to working at Envisia Learning, Inc., She was an internal Organizational Development Consultant at Marcus & Millichap where she was responsible for initiatives within training & development and recruiting.. Sandra received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles and received her Master of Science and Doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.

Posted in 360 Degree Feedback

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  • Frank Shipper

    My colleagues and I have followed up the research you cited with (1) Hoffman IV, R. C., & Shipper, F. (2012), “The Impact of Managerial Skills on Employee Outcomes: A Cross Cultural Study.” International Journal of Human Resource Management, Volume 23, Number 7, pp. 1414-1435, and (2) Hoffman IV, R. C., Davy, J., Shipper, F. & Rotondo, D. M. (Forthcoming), “”A Cross-Culture Study of Managerial Skills and Effectiveness: New Insights or Back to Basics?” International Journal of Organizational Analysis and found that the model of management that we have investigated using 360 feedback for over 25 years is valid in all 50 countries that we have studied.

  • Frank…Thanks…I’d be keen to obtain your latest findings and you can email me at ken@envisiaonline.com…Best of luck with your future research in this area

  • Pingback: Cómo la cultura impacta sobre el Feedback 360º :: Tools4Sucess()

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