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Can You Handle the Truth? 360 Feedback Offers Performance Perspective

Can You Handle the Truth? 360 Feedback Offers Performance Perspective

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January brings about the beginning of annual review season. Already, the Wall Street Journal is predicting raises will only be up slightly from last year – which means there’s going to be some pretty unhappy employees in the coming months. Plus, with studies cited by Harvard Business School indicating a 23-year low in job satisfaction, and another survey shared on Business News Daily indicating 80%+ of workers plan to look for a new job in 2011, a bad review may be just the thing that sends an unhappy worker over-the-top and in search of an new employer.

But, what if the review isn’t bad? Perhaps, you just don’t like the truth.

This year, many companies will institute 360 feedback programs – software that lets co-workers, managers and others interact with on-the-job people (i.e. clients, vendors) and give anonymous feedback about our performance. This kind of review can be extremely helpful because it enables us to see our perceived strengths and weaknesses so we can tailor our efforts to improve our contributions. It can also motivate us to take ownership of our careers so we can be proactive and learn how to gain proper recognition for our talents. However, not everyone takes constructive criticism well. Here’s an example:

Employee felt he ‘exceed expectations’ – but everyone else didn’t!

I recently spoke with a small business owner who performed a 360 feedback evaluation for his entire team, including himself. He shared with me the challenge he encountered when a 26-year old employee graded himself as exceeding expectations in every category. Meanwhile, the rest of his peers and the owner himself had provided some key feedback with respect to the employee’s ability to communicate with teammates on time-sensitive deadlines. When the performance review discussion unfolded, the owner said the employee was shocked and acted quite flustered when he saw how others graded him. The employee’s first comment was, “Well, I guess I should have been honest instead of being nice and giving them high marks.” The owner said, as hard as the conversation was, they were finally able to provide the employee with some serious ‘Ah-ha Moments’ with respect to his contribution to the team, which included:

  1. Showing how his definition of ‘exceeds expectations’ needed to be adjusted if he wanted to be respected for his contributions at the company.
  2. Validating why he needed to take the 360 feedback program seriously and consider how he could constructively provide feedback to his peers that would help them do a better job.

Once the employee recognized his peers actually appreciated him and sincerely wanted him to succeed, the owner said he got excited about the evaluation he received. He realized none of the feedback implied he had done a bad job, but rather, he was doing a good job and they wanted him to know how he could do even better.

I hope more employers are able to have successful 360 feedback performance reviews facilitate this kind of result. We all have room for improvement, right?

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in a 360 feedback evaluation? What did you learn?

What tips and/or advice can you provide for those who are participating in them for the first time?

I’d love it if you would share your thoughts below with our readers!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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J.T. O'Donnell Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.