Gathering valid and honest information, especially at the executive and managerial levels, is difficult (Denton, 1994). Individuals within an executive’s circle of influence are often reluctant to give feedback openly for fear of reproach. As a result, many top executive do not receive the feedback necessary to change and improve their performance. Thus, it is necessary to have leadership skills assessed in order to find skills and behaviors that need improvement, and 360-degree-feedback instruments are the most effective type of leadership assessment available by providing a complete picture of performance and effectiveness. What we call “360-degree feedback” is a method of systematically collecting opinions about a manager’s performance from a wide range of coworkers, include peers, direct subordinates, the boss, and the boss’s peers, along with people outside the organization, such as customers, suppliers, and in some cases even family members (Chappelow, 2004). These instruments are designed to provide feedback on managerial strengths and weaknesses, and provide more accurate evaluation and effective communications. Three techniques for assessment are offered here: psychological testing, multisource assessment, and individual competence assessments. In addition, 360-degree feedback has many psychological aspects: person perception, impression formation, individuals’ conceptions of self, impression management, and behavioral change.
Developmental activities using 360-degree feedback is now widely used by human resources professionals and in leadership development programs, and has become one of the most popular methods for developing managers in organizations. More and more organizations are using this process to help improve the effectiveness of their managers. When a 360-degree-feedback instrument was used, besides showing managers their strengths and weaknesses, it will also assist managers with an individual development plan. The instruments decrease bias and provide candid data to channel managers into appropriate training programs or interventions. One of the more important ways that employees can develop is to receive ratings of their performance from their co-workers—bosses, peers, subordinates, and others. The 360 degree-feedback is a self-other rating agreement, and is the degree to which self-perceptions are congruent with the perceptions of others. It shows that very positive individual and organizational outcomes are expected for individuals whose self-ratings are in agreement with others that their performance is good.
Along with the increasing use of multi-rater feedback for development, there is an increased use of feedback for appraisal and decision making for pay and promotion. Bracken (1994) mentioned that a successful multi-racer process: (1) is reliable and provides consistent ratings, (2) is valid because it provides job-related feedback, (3) is easy to use, understandable, and relevant, (4) it creates positive change on an individual and organizational level. Feedback, once provided, will enable individuals to develop along these standards. Performance standards not only are essential for individual development, but they represent the link to organizational strategy. Carey (1995) asserts that 360-degree feedback can create productive relationships between managers and employees. These assessments can assist career planning, leadership development, cooperation and communication between individuals and departments, as well as foster preferred leadership styles. It also provides executives with understanding of the difference between performance and expectations. The purpose of 360-degree systems is not only assessment but also to provide feedback to stimulate improvement and to promote an organization’s strategic business objectives.
Each rater possesses a unique and valid perspective from which the performance of the focal manager can be assessed. When valid performance ratings from multiple perspectives are linked to developmental planning, goal-setting, and organizational support, the 360-degree feedback process can lead to positive outcomes for the focal managers as well as the organizational as a whole. A comprehensive 360-degree approach provides the opportunity to identify critical behaviors and the opportunity to determine qualified sources of feedback that can provide valid and useful data (Bernardin, Dahmus, & Redmon, 1993). The trend toward using 360-degree feedback allows employees to have control over evaluations. By the way, the appraisal system and the feedback assessment must fit within the organizational culture (Budman & Rice, 1994).
The implementation of 360-degree-feedback systems requires “ample planning and precaution.” The experience has shown that 360-degree-feedback can be a powerful tool, but it must be used wisely. Careful preparation will allow users to implement a 360-degree system that will meet organizational needs. Coates (1996) discusses his seven suggestions for preventing 360-feedback assessments from losing impact and effectiveness: (1) Learn the technology before inventing in it. (2) make sure the organization is prepared for the 360-degree process. (3) Use sell-researched and well-constructed survey items. (4) Protect the confidentiality of raters. (5) Use skilled facilitators to implement the process. (6) Follow up with developmental activities. (7) Separate developmental feedback from personnel and compensation decisions.
In the writer’s point of view, managers would be more concern on accountability when ratings by the rater. The outcomes will improve employee satisfaction with the work environment, significant behavior changes aligned with the organization’s objectives, and better individual and team performance that extends to external customers. Regardless of how it is collected, feedback should provide information about appropriate behaviors that can be recognized and changed. Organizations are best served when they provide employees with information necessary for their own leadership development, and this can best be achieved with multi-rater feedback. Organizations should encourage managers to take initiative in self-development and consider mandating extensive development-planning sessions for 360-degree-feedback programs. Receiving 360-degree feedback was generally helpful, but follow-through on development was the most critical factor in improving skills. How do managers’ skills develop after feedback? What affects the level of effort managers put into their development?
Bernardin, H. J., Dahmus, A. A., & Redmon, G. (1993). Attitudes of first-line supervisors toward subordinate appraisals. Human Resource Management 32: 2&3, pp. 315-324.
Bracken, D. W. (1994). Straight talk about multirate feedback. Training and Development, September, pp. 44-51.
Budman, M. & Rice, B. (1994). The rating game. Across the Board 31:2, February, pp. 35-38.
Carey, R. (1995). Coming around to 360-degree feedback. Performance, March, pp. 56-60.
Chappelow, C. T. (2004). 360 degree feedback. In MacCauley, C. D. & Van Velsor, E. (2004) (Eds.), Handbook of leadership development (pp. 58-84). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Coates, D. E. (1996). Multi-source feedback: Seven recommendations. Career Development International 1:3, pp. 32-36.
Denton, W. E. (1994). Developing employee skills to match company needs. Credit World, May/June, pp. 19-20.
Velsor, E. V., & McCauley, C. D. (2004). Our view of leadership development. In MacCauley, C. D. & Van Velsor, E. (2004) (Eds.), Handbook of leadership development (pp. 1-22). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.