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The Abuse of the 360° Feedback System

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The 360º Feedback system is hailed as one of the more progressive feedback systems where employees get feedback from not only direct supervisors from their departments but also, in many cases, outside stakeholders. Juniors, peers and seniors – anyone who has worked with you – can give you feedback. This feedback can not only help you become a better professional but also helps companies review their employees in a holistic way.

 But it is a system after all!

The 360º Feedback system has two important pillars on which it stands:

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Anonymity

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Confidentiality means that I would not know who is reviewing me. You would not know who is providing feedback to you. But can the veil of confidentiality be burnt and stamped upon?

Anonymity is closely related to confidentiality. Anonymity ensures that the one providing feedback can do so without any fear or discomfort. So that they can tick and choose whatever they think is fair. But can someone bypass the veil and know who was standing right behind it?

The Value of Stress Testing

In the banking industry, stress testing of assets and portfolios are done using computer simulation models to determine how the assets and portfolios would fare in times of financial crisis such as the one we saw in 2008. Similarly, all systems and processes need to stress-tested.

Stress-testing is important for HR processes and systems because loopholes can be exploited and need to be plugged in in-time so that it does not affect the overall health of the organization. Checking for clues and reporting them:

  • Does S employee know that T is going to review him?
  • T is S’s subordinate. Is she being afforded the opportunity to review her supervisor in a fair manner?
  • Has a nexus started where P agrees to scratch the back of R, and R agrees to reciprocate?

The Caveat of Stress Testing

Although stress testing can help improve our systems and processes, it should not be a cause of harassment for the employees. While deviant behavior needs to be recorded and reported, all the actions of employees should not be look at with suspicion. Not everyone is trying to fool the 360º Feedback system.

We need to ensure that employees are ready to both provide and accept a true and fair feedback. While most organizations use the 360º Feedback to review employees, the end goal of reviewing also is to help the employees be better professionals so that the organization may benefit and not just to judge and rank them.

How can the 360º Feedback be implemented better?

First, it should be communicated to employees that the feedback is for their own good. So that they can perform better, they can have better work-life balance and get the opportunity to lead the organization.

Secondly, 360º Feedback should not be implemented at one go. It should be random and through out the year. Feedback weeks can lead to enormous loss of man-hours just because so many employees make it a big deal. It is important but not more important than the task at hand.

Thirdly, the feedback touch-points should not be too many. More than 20 and you lose the one giving a feedback. You do not want to bore them.

Fourthly, make it intelligible. It is not for testing their command over the English language. Short, simple and casual.

Fifthly, casual. Yes, casual. Make it sound too formal and too important, you give an incentive to cheat, to try find the loopholes. Again, it is important no doubt. But the bottom-line more so!

Sixthly, if anyone gives 5 out 5 or 0 out 5, make them use an event to describe why they are giving that rating. This would stop the abuse and not just make it too “casual”. This is also why you should not forget the third point mentioned here: not making the feedback paper too long. Too long, and you cannot do this sixth!

The Summary!

To end, review and feedback is important. But not more important than organization performance. These should help the organization be better. And for them to help the organization perform better, transparency, confidentiality, anonymity and good survey procedures are a must!

Hope this article helps. Share your ideas!

Author: Amartya Dey, India

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