Should Participants Be Told Who Has Completed Evaluating Their 360-Degree Feedback?

August 3, 2016 by Sandra Mashihi

“I want to be normal. I really want anonymity.”  -Emma Watson

Much research verifies that when raters are held accountable or identified, they tend to inflate ratings on 360-degree feedback assessments, because they are concerned about the repercussions of low ratings. Thus, the anonymity of raters does appear to ensure more accurate ratings (Morgeson, Mumford, & Campion, 2005)1. Participants typically do know the responses of their own manager, but this is expected even in developmentally oriented 360-degree feedback processes, because bosses typically provide evaluation of direct reports during performance reviews.

Anonymity is also important in how vendors share open ended questions (there are two options: the first is to provide comments by rater group and the second option is to is to  just list the comments randomly without identifying the rater group. It is important to share how many raters have completed the assessments but not who has completed the assessments to ensure the anonymity of raters providing feedback to each participant in a project.

Coach’s Critique:

In my coaching experience, I often find that my clients really try hard to figure out who said what. They’ve somehow seem to be certain about who the outlier rater was. It is very tempting for participants to get caught up about trying to figure out who said what. In fact, this process defeats the purpose of a 360, which is to look for patterns of responses for developmental purposes.

Keeping confidentiality and anonymity isn’t only about keeping names off of the feedback report. It is about taking all necessary precaution to avoid exposure of raters. There are several precautions that need to be taken in order to respect the “promised” confidentiality and anonymity of raters. If these precautions aren’t taken, it would become easy for a participant to identify raters, even if their names are not revealed on the feedback report. First and obviously foremost, names should not be revealed on the feedback report, this includes the anonymity of open-ended comments. Second, participants should not be told who has completed their 360.

As it is, in a confidentially “sound” process, participants know which group of people have been invited to participate in the feedback report. In addition, they might have a hunch of who said what if they have a smaller group of raters on their report. In addition, the rater category is revealed. So, they know, for instance, 7 peers rated them, 4 direct reports, 2 managers, etc. Now, imagine if participants would get a report on who exactly has taken their 360…this seems like a great way to increase their ability to identify raters through process of elimination. For this reason, it is essential to ensure that who has completed a participant’s 360 is not revealed.

What has been your experience with the anonymity of raters? Are there any other precautions to be taken in order to keep the anonymity?

  1. Morgeson, F. P., Mumford, T.V., & Campion, M.A. (2005). Coming full circle: Using research and practice to address 27 questions about 360-degree feedback programs. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57, 3, 196-209. []

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.

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  • Anonymity is different from know who completed the survey. It is very helpful to know who completed the survey for many reasons, part of which is to help ratees understand their results (by knowing who didn’t respond).
    Then accountability is even another topic. The question is accountable to whom for what. The research Dana Costar and I presented at SIOP this year indicated that, even when results are tied directly to compensation, certain forms of accountability actually made ratings lower than predicted.

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