housekeeping items

Some random, miscellaneous stuff:

1. I’m interested in people’s experiences with 360 degree feedback systems, especially in organizations with smaller departments, where even the best efforts to preserve anonymity may be undone by the small staff size of the manager being evaluated. I’m intrigued by the idea of going in this direction but am concerned about how anonymous the feedback can really be in departments with only a handful of people. Anyone have any experience with that?

2. Thanks to everyone who voted in the 2008 Weblog Awards. Ask a Manager came in at #5 out of 10 in the Best Business Blog category.

3. The cheesy “industry gossip” site that keeps spamming my and other blogs’ comments section with the same self-promotional message over and over can suck it.

4. It is really cold and I’m being saved from frostbite only by burrowing under the softest flannel bedding known to man or woman. Garnet Hill flannel, I love you.

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    My last boss collected 360 feedback and I only have one person reporting to me. Luckily she thought I was doing a good job (and I think it’s sincere), I had often wondered how my boss would have presented that if I hadn’t been doing a good job supervising since there is no way it would have been anonymous.

    I do think that my boss sometimes took the comments she received from others and changed them into her words so that it made them less obvious. Still don’t know if you can make it totally anonymous if there is only one other person you’re working with in a certain capacity. I’m very anxious to hear other’s thoughts on this topic too.

  2. Anonymous*

    Since there are only a few people in my department, filling out the 360 was hard. I had two supervisors I could praise highly (along with share places of improvement) and another one that I didn’t do the feedback on because I couldn’t think of anything positive to say and it’s small enough that he could know who it was. (I did, however, talk to my boss about my feelings of this supervisor so he could handle it in a way that wasn’t so in print.)

  3. Evil HR Lady*

    I’ve only had 360 feedback once and I only managed 4 people. The part where they wrote in comments amused me because even though the comments were anonymous, I knew precisely who had written each one.

    Fortunately, they liked me (or said they did!) and I really liked them. That was a fantastic team.

  4. Anonymous*

    We did something like this once a few years ago. I was relatively new to being the manager and thought it would be a great idea if employees to design and execute a 360 review. I thought it would give them ownership of the process and show that their voice was important as well as giving me the feedback I needed. Our group is less than 10. Our company and industry is small and most of here haven’t had many jobs since college (and are all young) very few have worked in a truly “corporate” setting.

    I think asking them to design the questions was a mistake. A lot of the questions on the review covered items that were of limited importance regarding the work of a manager, some showed a misplaced notion of what a manager’s role really is and a lot of the important questions to ask were left out. Also, solutions to particular criticisms weren’t offered. True, I was a new manager and I expected to have a lot of room for improvement but in the end it felt like more of a snipe-fest than a honest opportunity to for constructive feedback that would spur improvement. Of course I did my best to consider the truth behind any of these messages and weigh them objectively, and I but it shook my confidence in what I was doing in a way that affected how well I did my job going forward. An example, I was less likely to give solid feedback if I thought it would offend.

    We did the review anonymously and yes, it was pretty clear who said what, despite that. However after recounting this story to a friend, she thought maybe doing it anonymously isn’t the way to go. In her view, people should be responsible for what they say. (And I think I agree with that.) In hindsight I think I should have had the reports (not anonymous) go to my superior. This way the feedback would likely be more professional but still removed enough to encourge honesty.

    Anonymous reports are probably more useful if your group is having really high turnover and it isn’t clear why.

    I am not saying 360 reports are not useful or important, I think they absolutely are, but I know that if/when do it again, I will approach it very differently.

  5. Rebecca*

    360 feedback is routinely punished at my present (small) department. All employees have learned that feedback forms must contain either good things or nothing at all. Doing otherwise results in a panic, a witch hunt, or both.

    If there’s any way it does work in small departments, I would really love to know how!

  6. Just another HR lady...*

    Hi AAM,

    I’ve used 360 Degree Feedback numerous times and think it’s valuable as a development tool.

    I think that to get a well-rounded picture, you need to truly be 360. The questionnaire does not go to only the managers employees, it also goes to peers in the company, and members of the executive team that have direct contact with that person. This also eliminates the difficulty with only having a small department. Rarely does a manager only have interaction with their own department, and if they do, they need to get out there and start interacting. I usually give the person being evaluated the option to pick 2 (or more depending) evaluators at a higher job level, 2 (or more depending)evaluators at a peer level, and then all of the direct reports have the option to participate.

    Secondly, I would suggest spending most of your time ensuring that your questions are very well-defined, with ratings that you can use to give a compiled statistical report, rather than asking people to write wording or phrases that can identify the evaluator. (e.g. 60% of respondants reported that you are late meeting deadlines, 25% of respondants reported that they had difficulty obtaining data from you in a timely manner, etc. )

    Lastly, I think that part of the training on the tool needs to drive home the the fact that this tool is not going to be used for disciplinary or compensation purposes, nor is it the place to list a specific issue that a person would like to have reviewed (they wouldn’t let me come in at 9 am as opposed to 8:30 am). The tool is to assist in the personal and professional development of the person only.

  7. Kerry*

    I am not a fan of 360 feedback. Even in larger organizations, it’s really pretty easy to figure out who said what. Even worse, though, is the fact a great deal of energy tends to be expended on trying to figure out who said what. I’ve worked with eight different companies that used 360s, and in that whole population, I can only think of one manager who improved as a result of the experience. Most just grew a little bit more paranoid.

    I am a fan of using the energy and resources you might have spent on rolling out a 360 program to encourage better communication instead. If people feel the need to wait for an “anonymous” survey to tell their manager that they’re late all the time, well, you have a bigger problem than the manager’s chronic tardiness.

  8. Anonymous*

    I’m with Kerry. Making feedback regimens fancier to work around the problem of everyday poor communication is treating the symptom, not the disease.

    A manager who can be trusted with 360 anonymous feedback can be trusted with the same feedback in person. One who can’t be addressed in person is best given bland, noncommittal feedback. Even in a large department, one must imagine signing his own name to “anonymous” feedback.

    I once gave anonymous feedback that my manager didn’t agree with. Her rebuttal turned up in my evaluation. Now I give generic, pat-on-the-back 360 feedback. I never give anonymous negative feedback about a coworker, either, lest it be misunderstood or read as my own inability to play well with others.

    Not that I’m against being frank, but it’s best done face to face where the situation is clear. Send an anonymous comment out into the corporate ether and who knows where and how it travels and who might do what with it?

  9. Dan McCarthy*

    Size of firm or work group shouldnt come into play, as long as the 360 is administered so that if there are less three raters in a category (direct report, peer, other), the scores and comments dont show. They can be blended into the overall scores. Manager scores usually are shown separately.

    In reading the comments, a professional debrief can help address some of the concerns. It would be malpractice just to send the report to a manager whos never had a 360.
    However, if there’s already a total lack of trust and respect in the workgroup, a 360 might just make it worse.

    Ive designed and administered a lot of these, email me if youd like to discuss.

  10. nuqotw*

    When I was a teaching assistant, I had a form on the course webpage that would email to me anonymously anything anyone typed into it. I wanted my students to feel free to make suggestions about my teaching, course content, etc. without fear. I had ~20 students, and I typically had a pretty good idea who thought what, but since I could never be sure, it worked just fine. I also gave out anonymous mid-term evaluation forms in class.

    While such a system (on the company intranet, presumably) might be less useful for HR data collecting purposes, it would definitely give employees some safety and an immediate way to communicate, instead of waiting around for reviews.

    Though I never had a problem, if I had received anything abusive/threatening, I would have taken down the form immediately. Presumably employees are more mature than college students, so the risk should be a bit smaller. (Maybe that’s a naive presumption.)

    In the work world, my experience is that I don’t want to spend time evaluating anonymously a boss who wouldn’t have such a conversation with me face to face in the first place.

  11. Anonymous*


    Having been a trainer at several organizations, I believe that 360 is really the only system that really gives complete, truthful, and useful feedback – but only if it is done correctly.

    It is time consuming – someone has to design questionnaires for each job position in the company, multiple forms to be completed for one employee instead of just one by the supervisor, someone has to combine all those evauations into one cohesive summary. The office where they did 360 (about 1,000 employees) the supervisor were pretty much doing nothing but evaluations for 2 months as everyone’s eval were at the same time.

    On a personal note, Let me tell you this – For a couple of years I had outstanding reviews. Then I got a new supervisor who, for whatever reason, hated me. The first evaluation by this supervisor was mostly items marked as “needs improvement.” Had this been a review of just her opinion vs. mine then I would have been screwed. While it was office-politics wise very risky, with the 360 review process I was able to ask for and get the other forms used to evaluate me (with the reviewers’ names removed, of course). I was then able to show to HR that the summary evaluation from my new supervisor was bogus. (All of the negative statements were written by her while all of the positive statements by others were excluded. I also did a purely numerical evaluation with needs improvement ranking a zero and outstanding ranking a 5 to show that she was way off.) While HR did not force her to re-write her evaluation they did allow me to write a rebuttal and make sure that the other reviewers evaluations were included in my permanent file. (due to storage space limitations, normally only the final summary was included in the employee’s permanent file) I do believe that without this I would have been forced out of the company within a year, as it turns out I stayed with the company another 4 years until they did layoffs.

    While I am sure that she had a hand in determining that I was one of those to be laid off, she at least never again gave me an unfair evalution. My remaining four years there were all outstanding evalutions.

    I am sending you a sample form via email.

  12. Brian*

    Our company does 360 evals for everyone – staff and management alike. The surveys can’t truely be anonymous as I give my boss 3 names of people outside my immeadiate team and he asks them for feedback. They are free to respond or not. I know who the surveys were sent to so I have a good idea of who made what comments when I see them.

    I do see the 360 as being of some value – my supervisor doesn’t give a huge amount of weight to anonymous comments unless the same comment shows up more than once.

    When answering the surveys I always keep in mind that there is a good chance that the person will know who wrote the comment. One thing that I think is valuable to me is it reminds me that I have a responsibility to give people feedback when needed.

  13. Anonymous*

    At my job we were having problems with a manager and someone decided to have a 360 review of him… and didn’t ask any of the people he managed for reviews, only higher-ups and other managers he worked alongside. They also told one of the reviewers that if they said anything bad about him they would end the conversation. Fun.

  14. Anonymous*

    My experience with this has been as an employee at a large corporation, not as an HR professional.

    HR conducted a 360 degree review about our boss, whom most of the team did not trust. We regularly heard complaints from other department heads about her.

    No one working directly for her was comfortable answering the survey honestly and for good reason. We discovered that HR was using our team’s survey-software login to conduct these reviews. All of us, including our boss, had access to the results, which were not anonymous. We raised our concerns to HR, who basically asked us to be on the honor system about it. Even though I easily could have, I did not peek at the results.

    Overall, this was a company that I enjoyed working at, and I think they had good intentions. I just think that unless reviewers trust that their feedback will be handled with discretion, the results will not be an honest reflection. In which case, what’s the point?

  15. Sayya26*

    I’m responsible for the 360 evaluation at the company I work for. We’re a relatively small firm of about 65 persons split up into 6 teams.

    The anonymity of it is not a problem- except when you have employees who put their name at the top of the form- after you’ve omitted a space for it and told them not to write their name…

    I chose this year to follow up with one on one reviews to find out what they thought of the process and of the scores their team leaders gave them.

    It’s a tremendous amount of paper work and time spent comparing and analyzing to get the most accurate rating of an employee’s performance- but the feedback is certainly insightful and helps management make adjustments where necessary.

  16. Anonymous*

    I am looking for a low cost and easy to use 360 feedback system – our company is only small – so we can not afford a lot …. I have come across – apparently they only launched the system last month – and their prices are seriously low – its about 10.00 a month and so we could run it for all our people for 10.00 – back to the question – has anyone used their system yet ???

  17. Anonymous*

    My company just went through a 360 process for all top management. Here's my concern: On my 360, several of my direct reports took the opportunity to offer complaints about another of my direct reports (I suppose as an example of how I could improve as a manager — fair enough.)

    The problem is that about a month later, my boss started asking me very specific questions about this person's issues exactly as they had been verbalized in my 360. Moreover, at my direct report's next annual review, my boss insisted that I reprimand this person and deny them a annual raise as a result of information that came to light through these comments.

    I have a big problem with this and am even concerned about whether I need to retain an attorney to protect myself if it ever gets out how this all came down.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

  18. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous, why would you need an attorney?

    If there ARE issues with this employee, your boss is right to want them addressed. (Although they should have been addressed immediately and not held for his/her evaluation.)

  19. Anonymous*

    There ARE issues with this employee and they ARE being addressed. My concerns are that (a) I was told that the results of my 360 would not be shared with anyone else and, (b) the consultant who performed the 360 said that I absolutely could not use any of the information or comments to discipline any of my direct reports. I understand that this is normally meant to protect against retaliation, and that's not the case here.

    Perhaps I'm overreacting, but the manner in which this information came to light seems jaded since everyone was told the 360 process was completely confidential, and my company appears to have broken that promise. Had the persons who made these statements known that the CEO of the company would be reading every comment, I think they would have been a bit more careful about their accusations.

    I feel that the integrity of the entire 360 process has been violated.

Comments are closed.