Positioning the 360 degree feedback process is key. When we hear people say they have previously ‘had a bad experience of 360’ this is often to do with positioning the 360 degree feedback process.
We advise that 360 degree feedback be used as a developmental tool. Some companies use it as part of their appraisal process, but we think the downsides of that outweigh the benefits (read our thoughts on that here). This is why we prefer not to refer to 360 degree feedback as 360 appraisal.
Similarly, we have had some companies ask us to run 360 degree feedback for someone who they have performance concerns with. They want to use the feedback as a way to ‘get through to them’ with a view to making the person understand the nature of the feedback. This is possible, but we would advise against it as it often feels like the process has been manipulated in order to ‘get at someone’.
The objective of 360 degree feedback is to encourage behaviour change, but behaviour is difficult to change. Behaviour change has the most chance of success where it is encouraged and supported.
All in all, we recommend that 360 degree feedback be positioned as a developmental process that is designed to identify strengths and areas for development.