Kira Vermond: The pros and cons of 360-degree employee reviews
- September 2, 2009 7:49 AM |
- By Kira Vermond
By Kira Vermond, a Canadian freelance writer.
(Listen to the original audio.)
Want to know what Rachel in marketing really thinks of your work? Does Larry still blame you for fumbling the ball last month?
You’ll find out - if your employer uses 360-degree reviews to evaluate workers. By asking for feedback from managers, colleagues and even customers, you’re more likely to discover exactly where you stand - 10 times over.
When they work, 360 reviews help people hone their strengths and even find blind spots they never even knew they had. But this review system can also pave the way for vindictive comments, office-wide animosity and leave people feeling singled out.
Perhaps that’s because comments are usually confidential, so some people feel less inhibited and let criticism fly.
Other critical raters sharpen their poison pens when they have something to gain from putting another employee down. They want to avoid being in the next round of layoffs, for example.
Then there are the brokered feedback deals - I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.
One way to get around all of these problems is to use the 360 for professional development only. The employer uses it to help employees learn about themselves. What management shouldn’t do is tie it to salary. Or use it to decide who should be on the chopping block.
So, that being said, who should rate us?
Experts on the 360 system say at least eight to 10 people need to be consulted in order to get a good panoramic view of performance. And also so the ratee can’t guess who said what.
Self-rating is also popular.
Does it work?
Not if you expect the score to reflect reality. Self-raters tend to score themselves a point or more higher than their peers’ have. In some cases it’s because people have inflated views of their own ability. Or because they don’t want to point out their weaknesses for fear that other people will clue in too.
But here’s the kicker: lower self-raters tend to be the star performers. Why? A few years back, a Lominger (LOM-injer) study in the U.S. found that better workers tend to underestimate their abilities - because they have higher internal standards. They think they should be doing better than they are - so they work harder.
But no matter who is being evaluated, organizations should ask for comments throughout the year rather than waiting until a designated 360-time. They could get some great feedback from people in March, but if the appraisal doesn’t happen until November, those useful comments are forgotten.
Of course, on the flip side, if you messed up big time at work in the spring, having a few extra months to live it down … Well, that's not such a bad thing.
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