How to Determine WHO Gets to See 360-Degree Feedback Results

July 6, 2016 by Sandra Mashihi

“A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.” -Saki

The goal of all 360-degree feedback processes is to provide clear information for professional development in a manner that motivates individuals to make specific behavioral changes, leading to enhanced effectiveness. Generally, the feedback from 360-degree assessments can be shared with the program participant, his or her manager, and others within or outside the organization.

However, 360-degree feedback research suggests that the motivation for behavior change is increased when feedback is perceived to be confidential and used for developmental purposes (Nowack, 2005). Participants and raters who believe that feedback will be shared with others or believe that the process is not anonymous tend to inflate ratings or “game the system,” making the information less objective and candid. However, what is most critical is to communicate and clarify the limits of confidentiality and anonymity and who will be receiving the actual results from any 360-degree feedback before the project is initiated.

Coach’s Critique:

The question about who gets to see the 360-degree feedback is often a question of concern for the participant, his or her manager, human resources, and other rater participants. The person being rated wants to feel safe that the feedback is confidential. On the other hand, the manager wants to know how the participant was perceived, and what needs to take place in terms of development. The human resource personnel might also be interested in the 360 results either to support succession planning or coaching intervention decisions or even to use it in some way (numeric or open ended responses) with their performance appraisal system. As far the raters, they want to know that their “honest” results aren’t going to be revealed. How do we make sure that all of them (participant, manager, and raters) feel comfortable with the process?

In our coaching practice, we generally clarify all these elements before we contract for a 360-degree process. For instance, we generally recommend the coaching client to share results with his or her manager. I believe that the initiation should be a choice of the participant client, and if the client would prefer not to reveal all details, then he or she shouldn’t feel obligated. In those cases, where they don’t want their manager to see the whole report, we recommend that the client and manager collaboratively come up with a plan of action on specific development areas. This way, the manager is able to be aware and track development, rather than holding him or her to details of the feedback report. When it comes down to it, it is very important to make sure that the client feels comfortable to participate in the process. Without this level of comfort, resistance arises, and behavior change may be difficult to accomplish.

Furthermore, we emphasize that raters know their feedback would remain confidential and anonymous. This should be communicated and noted prior to their participation. It is very common for raters to deflate rating with the fear that their results would be revealed. It is very difficult to provide raters with absolute assurance about confidentiality of their results; many raters either don’t know that their results will remain confidential or aren’t aware of the purpose of the 360. When raters are made aware that the 360 is used for development purposes and not for promotion or demotion, they are likely to treat the the process with more honest feedback and  precision. Also, when they are assured that their results will remain anonymous and confidential, they are more likely to provide accurate feedback.

Therefore, it is crucial to clarify to ALL participants just who might see and use the 360 reports as well as defining the purpose clearly in order to ensure a successful intervention.

Who do you think should view the 360-degree feedback results?

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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