The pros and cons of 360 degree feedback

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Published on May 1, 2017 | Reading time: 9m

A smart way for teams to get a more complete picture on an employee is to use 360 degree feedback.

Traditionally, employees get feedback only from their direct managers, which creates a 1-1 feedback process. To get a more complete picture, you want to get feedback from as many sources as possible.

There are many pros and cons to using 360 feedback that we’ll go through, but one important thing to understand is that it’s used to measure an employee’s strength and weaknesses, not their performance.

This is why it might not be the best idea to include 360 feedback as part of an annual performance review. If you’re planning to use it, it might just be part of your overall feedback and performance management process.

In this post, we’ll explain what 360 degree feedback is, talk about the pros and cons, give you some examples of questions, and some pro tips to get you started quickly and easily.

Before we do, make sure to grab this free guide on how to give better employee feedback.

What is 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback is when you collect feedback about your strengths and weaknesses from everyone around you, hence the name 360 degree.

As a manager, if you were the one receiving 360 feedback, you’d collect feedback from your direct manager (if you have one), your employees, your coworkers, and potentially even your customers. Many times there is also a self-assessment that is included in the process.

It’s important that the process is anonymous and that everyone rating you gets the same questions about you. At the end, one person (usually your manager) will compile all the results and discover any patterns about where you could improve.

Remember, a 360 review is about strengths and weaknesses.

A performance review is about the job someone is doing, a 360 review is about an employee’s skills.

The goal is to help anyone in the organization (senior leaders and employees) improve their personal skills and behaviours at work. By combining multiple sources of feedback, you’ll get a more complete picture of the employee.

One on one vs 360 feedback

Pros of 360 degree feedback

There are many pros to 360 feedback, they’re an amazing tool to use, but it’s important for you to remember that it’s all part of a larger feedback process which includes employee surveys, one-on-ones, annual reviews, etc.

1. More Complete Assessment

Because you’re collecting feedback from so many different sources, you have a broader (and potentially more accurate) assessment. You’ll likely notice recurring themes and patterns that you should be focusing on.

According to Officevibe data, 18% of employees feel like the feedback they receive is lacking precision.

By implementing 360 degree feedback and increasing the number of respondents, you are more likely to have a better picture of your employee’s work and relations, hence making the feedback more specific. Also, it’s likely that colleagues or customers have feedback that you might not have, so you’ll get a more complete picture of your employee’s strengths and weaknesses.

2. Create Better Teamwork

In theory, if everyone identifies their strengths, weaknesses, and behaviours that they need to work on, they’ll end up becoming better coworkers and the team will be happier and more productive.

3. See How Others See You

It’s great to see how others perceive you. The 360 review gives colleagues a chance to anonymously express how they feel about their coworkers, something that doesn’t regularly happen at work.

If you’re able to handle feedback and not get too upset about it, you’ll want to know how others see you. The key to handling feedback is to develop a growth mindset and look at it as an opportunity to grow.

4. More Feedback Is Always Better

One of the biggest issues that employees face in their workplace is a lack of frequent feedback. Employees crave feedback, and the 360 review gives them a chance to get more of it from more people.

Employees will likely also perceive the feedback as more fair since it’s coming from multiple sources.

5. 360 feedback is anonymous

In most cases, 360 feedback is anonymous. This can sometime be an advantage of 360 feedback as some employees might feel more comfortable giving feedback. This is especially the case for constructive and negative feedback.

If some of your team members are scared to share negative feedback about a colleague, then 360 feedback can be a safe space where they are able to flag these issues to their manager and the colleague in question.

Cons of 360 feedback

360 feedback isn’t perfect, and unfortunately many teams will implement it for the wrong reasons. You need to be very careful when doing this. If your culture already has an issue of trust or the team isn’t getting along well, this might only worsen the problem.

1. It Can Create A Negative Culture

If the feedback received is negative, it can create a lot of resentment on the team, where the receiver is angry at their colleagues or customers, inducing emotions like fear and anger.

To prevent this from happening, you can teach your employees about constructive feedback. This will help your employees to turn a negative comment into an actionnable statement and will be much more beneficial for the concerned employee and your team in the long run.

2. It Might Not Be Accurate

The feedback that’s received might not be 100% accurate. Your colleagues might want to be nicer that what they really feel, or maybe due to internal politics they’re dishonest to be mean.

If you’re on a small team and everyone’s friends with each other, can we really be that critical of each other?

On the flipside, if you’re on a very large team, do the people reviewing you really know you well enough to give you an accurate assessment?

Remember, feedback is often about perceptions. Because a certain employee feels some way about a colleague, it might not be the absolute truth. In the case of negative feedback, make sure you take the time to discuss it with the concerned employee to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

The point is, be careful with the data you’re collecting.

3. Too Focused On Weaknesses

The review can focus too much on an employee’s weaknesses and not enough on their strengths, which can be pretty discouraging.

It’s okay to highlight areas for improvement, but remember to focus on strengths and how that strengths can be leveraged more on the team.

4. You can’t track anonymous feedback

Anonymous feedback is great to make your employees more comfortable to share their opinions, but it can sometimes be a double edged sword. If a critical issue arise during a 360 feedback loop, it’s impossible for you to know the identity of the employee sharing the negative feedback. This makes it harder for the manager to address and solve the conflict effectively.

5. It’s time consuming

While the assessment you obtain might be more complete, this quality of information comes at a cost. First, it takes time for your employees to fill feedback surveys. For the manager, analyzing the feedback and finding insights from the surveys is also a time consuming task.

If you chose to conduct 360 feedback for many team members, the time taken by all parties is multiplied. Since managers usually have busy schedules, it’s important to ask yourself if the insights coming from 360 feedback are worth the time invested into it for you and your employees. Typically, they are. And the juice is worth the squeeze because gaining different perspectives and revealing your own blindspots is essential to better understand your team.

Should you implement 360 feedback on your team?

As presented earlier, 360 feedback comes with many pros and some cons. If you’re wondering whether or not to implement 360 feedback on your team, the answer is it depends. Different teams have different challenges, and as a manager you know what’s best for yours.Collecting 360 feedback is great every 6-12 months to get a high level view of your team’s performance through different eyes, but, collecting frequent ongoing feedback is essential to have an real-time view of your teams pains and sentiments.

Here are a few situations where 360 feedback might benefit your team:

  • When you notice team dynamics issues and need to grasp how employees are collaborating with their peers.
  • Before performance reviews or compensation adjustments so you have an accurate picture of their contribution
  • Before promoting an employee internally so you see what areas need refining before shifiting roles.

Keeping a balance between different feedback collection methods will help you have an accurate view of your team and its needs. For situations where 360 feedback might not be the best option for your team, you can use Officevibe’s feedback features to take the pulse of your team without loading your already busy schedule.

360 Feedback sample questions

Since managers have busy schedules, implementing a new feedback process can be time consuming.

The exercise of 360 feedback can give you the opportunity to address some critical areas such as autonomy, expertise and impact. In order to save you some time, here are a few sample questions you can use for your 360 feedback review:

  • Does this employee seem motivated at work?
  • Do you feel like this team member is autonomous on their day to day.
  • When conflicts arise, does this employee handle it well?
  • When challenges arise, does this employee take the initiative of proposing solutions?
  • On the daily, do you consider this employee to be proactive or reactive?
  • Does this employee’s work impact colleagues outside of his direct team?
  • Is this employee committed to the success of the organization?
  • Does this employee display leadership skills?
  • Is this employee in charge of his/her professional development?
  • Have you experienced any problems with this employee personally?
  • Does this employee pay attention to detail in their work?
  • Is this employee a good communicator?
  • Does this employee manage their time well?
  • Do you trust this employee that they’ll do what they say they’ll do?

Tips to get started with 360 feedback

If you’re looking to get started with 360 feedback, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get started.

Set Goals For The Process

You need to have a reason for why you’re doing what you do, how you’ll use the results, and what people should expect.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What skills/strengths are important for us here? (hint: tie them to your core values).
  • What are we going to do with all of the data we collect? How will we keep that going over time?

Remove The Fear

If you’re just getting started with 360 reviews, it’s natural that employees might be a bit nervous or scared about what to expect. It’s your job as a manager to remove that fear and explain exactly how to process will work.

Explain how the anonymity works, that they should be honest, why you’re doing this, etc.

Keep The Survey Short

One last tip to keep in mind is not to make your survey too long. Survey fatigue kicks in very quickly, and with something like this you want the information to be as accurate as possible.

Take the survey a few times yourself to see how long it is and where you could potentially remove to make the process as simple as possible.

Do You Use 360 Degree Feedback?

Anything to share with our community about how you do it at your organization?