Why 360 degree Evaluation has more Pitfalls than Prizes!

Everything has its pluses and minuses; so does 360 degree evaluation system! Feedback is always good and welcome; but the systems and methods of giving the same do not necessarily serve us well. It is also not that its pluses and minuses would be equal in number or magnitude. 360 degree evaluation or assessment has gained mass appeal and hence most organizations and individuals put their faith in it; but that is blind folded, unless its prizes and pitfalls are understood! Let us also not forget, what appeals to most is generally a mistake!!

Upside of 360 degree Evaluation system

  1. Provides great opportunity to learn “what is the impression and opinion of people, with whom you are involved – supervisor, sub-ordinates, peers, co-workers and customers, about you”.
  2. An occasion for self – analysis and assessment.
  3. Possibility of correcting your own perception.
  4. Helps you to chart out a course to change and improve.
  5. But, what is generally not understood or spoken about is:
    Beneficiaries are also those, who give the feedback!
    Normally, people carry vague ideas about others, even if they have been dealing and interacting with others for years. Process of calibrating a feedback actually helps the people to crystallize their thoughts about how and why they think or perceive others in one way or another. That, in turn, helps them tremendously in better understanding and improving their relationship with others!

Downside of the system

Evaluate now the Evaluation system carefully:

  1. Giving feedback is equivalent to making a fair judgment of other’s attitude, behavior, competence and performance.
    How good the people are at above? Unfortunately, most are not!
  2. Quality of feedback is directly related to quality and characteristics of the people giving it. A bad quality can completely overshadow good quality of the person, for whom feedback is intended!
    But, the reverse is not true i.e. good quality of assessor would never favor or protect bad qualities of one being assessed!!
  3. Psychologically, the opinions and impressions of humans are mainly dictated by last 1 or 2 instances or experiences; whereas, need for good feedback has to be governed by observations and understanding over a good length of period!
    So, very often feedback is completely misplaced in view of above limitation, which most are unable to overcome.
  4. More than 90% of people on our planet suffer from biases. Therefore, their impressions bear more imprints of their biases than real performance and potential of the person, for whom feedback is intended!
  5. If one being assessed has too good or too bad performance, people would usually lack courage to put the same in writing. Instead, they prefer to dilute it.
  6. Research and analysis show that most tend to tick around the center of the scale for a given parameter or question.
  7. Even if feedback survey is made anonymous, the assessor tends to believe that one being assessed (i.e. assesse) may somehow figure out his/her name. So, assessor has tendency to please him/her, even when that is not warranted.
  8. Often, it has been seen that if an assessor has heard of opinions of other people about the assesse, those become part of his/her opinion too and hence, feedback may lack honest assessment of one giving it!
  9. In many cases, assesse is requested to name or select his 360 degree assessors, except obviously for supervisor.
    It is but natural that assesse would select and name those, who he/she believes are favorable to him/her! This is a fact, most would not admit!
    Surprisingly, often your detractors may give you true feedback; but you would desist to choose them as your assessor!!
  10. Many assessors tend to be goody type and hence, their feedback is generally good; but not honest.
    It is not a joke; but a reality – many give feedback in the spirit of “give and take”. So, give good one and get back likewise now or later!

What to discern out of 360 degree?

So, there are more pitfalls than prizes in 360 degree Evaluation system!

However good the feedback system or methods may be designed, these would work well only if:

  • We become free from biases.
  • We are sincere, serious and conscious in making fair judgment on others.
  • We realize our responsibility as assessor or assesse and own it.
  • We have character and courage to be candid.
  • We treat feedback as mirror image of what we are in others’ eyes and accept/respect it!

Very pertinent point, which emerges out of above, is that both assesse and assessor benefit from good quality feedback!

Lastly, those, who are conscious to change and become better, believe in figuring out feedback from the response or reaction of others for their own attitude and actions on-the-spot. They do not wait for a formal feedback. As a rule, formal feedback, if given scrupulously, cannot spring any surprise to such people!!

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4 Comments
  • Rudra
    Apr 29,2013 at 7:19 pm

    I would say I was somewhat aware of the upsides of a “360 deg Evaluation system”, but it’s good to know the 10 most “interesting” downsides as well… something new for me…

    A nice learning (that I was unaware of)!!

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Apr 30,2013 at 3:36 pm

      Many thanks for your illustrious comments! Highly appreciate your interest!!

      Whatever has upside, has to have downside; otherwise, we can’t call upside an upside.

  • Sid Grover
    Apr 28,2013 at 1:34 am

    Your last paragraph is very correct. Anyone who takes self-awareness seriously will never find anything new in a 360 feedback. In pursuit of self awareness, one learns to also take 360 feedback on the go and doesn’t rely on a formal one.

    There is one more problem with today’s formal 360 feedback especially found in corporate environment, which I was expecting to see above but is missing. And that is the way feedback questionnaire is designed. I have, either through giving or through receiving 360 feedback, in last 5-6 years used almost a dozen providers of this service. In the beginning I used to be very diligent and honest and tried to spend enough time in filling these forms. There are so many questions and many with same substance but in different forms that it just drains one filling the form. I get the purpose of it when a person is being interviewed for example, where you want to make sure true replies are coming out and the candidate is not manipulating. However the premise of a 360 is that the receiver wants to know the truth about himself and the givers are giving an honest assessment. An average feedback giver will not be able to focus as much in going through the toil of replying questions in an these kind of feedback questionnaire forms.

    I have stopped using these forms and politely decline anybody who asks me to complete these forms for them. I am waiting for a service provider who can bring ease and simplicity in the process

    But again, a very good assessment above. Please continue with motivating and enlightening many who follow you

    • Apr 28,2013 at 2:40 pm

      You have orchestrated your valuable views very well and candidly! I thank you a lot for your inspiring words!!

      True; I have missed the point, which you have appropriately raised. I have also come across several survey forms, which carry same question being asked in variety of ways. I agree that it hardly serve the real purpose and only create jitters in assessor’s mind. Many thanks for your contribution!

      I commend your time and interest!!

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