Understanding the nuances of a 360-degree feedback

It is now common to hear organizations talking in terms of a 360-degree feedback. Is this just another fashionable term to hit the market? Or does it have something to offer that is different from earlier yardsticks? What is a 360-degree feedback? How is it different from other assessments, and what difference does it actually do to an organization?

The term is rather self-explanatory. A 360-degree feedback is an all-round performance measurement index. What is the “all-round” aspect here? It simply means that in a 360-degree feedback, assessments are not done unilaterally and at one source. This leads us to what it actually is: It is a multi-layered assessment technique.

Why a 360-degree feedback?

The aim of a 360-degree feedback is to ensure that no prejudices creep in at the time of an assessment. In this sense, this certainly is a proper tool, because in the event of one single manager or supervisor making an assessment, there is every chance that it could be shaded, for good or for bad. What if the employee being assessed is really good, but is not on good terms with the reporting manager? Should she suffer a negative feedback because of this reason? Conversely, what if a really bad employee gets a good feedback because of the opposite reason –that of being in the good books of the reporting manager?

It is to avoid all these that a 360-degree feedback does not stop with one assessment. It goes up to higher levels, ranging from four to even sometimes, eight supervisors, if the hierarchy permits that. The idea of a 360-degree feedback at its core is to ensurethat transparent and accountablesteps are taken.


Despite all its good intentions, it should be admitted that a 360-degree feedback is far from perfect. Why? One, it could lead to bad blood between the reporting manager and his higher ups whenever there is a serious difference of opinion regarding a candidate’s assessment. It is natural for the immediate, reporting manager to feel slighted when his assessments are shot down by people to whom the candidate rarely reports directly.

Secondly, the selection of the persons doing the assessment could play a major role in the accuracy of the assessment. In this sense, it is akin to a trial by jury, where neutral and disinterested persons are selected to aid in decision making. When employees whose objectivity is doubtful are selected to carry out the assessment; it leads to faultiness, defeating the purpose of having an all-round assessment.

Once an organization takes steps to correct these factors, a 360-degree assessment could be a great tool for the organization.


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