Career Planning Succeeding at Work What Is 360-Degree Feedback? See the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly By Susan M. Heathfield Susan M. Heathfield Facebook Twitter Website Susan Heathfield is an HR and management consultant with an MS degree. She has decades of experience writing about human resources. learn about our editorial policies Updated on September 13, 2022 Fact checked by David Rubin Fact checked by David Rubin Facebook Instagram Twitter David J. Rubin is a fact checker for The Balance with more than 30 years in editing and publishing. The majority of his experience lies within the legal and financial spaces. At legal publisher Matthew Bender & Co./LexisNexis, he was a manager of R&D, programmer analyst, and senior copy editor. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article What Is 360 Feedback? Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: Image by Theresa Chiechi ÃÂ© The Balance 2019 Definition 360-degree feedback is a method of employee review that provides each employee the opportunity to receive performance feedback from their supervisor or manager and four to eight peers, reporting staff members, coworkers, and, in some cases, customers. Key Takeaways Unlike standard feedback from a single source, 360-degree feedback takes in comments from peers and reporting staff members in addition to supervisors and managers.This strategy helps workers understand their strengths and weaknesses from a variety of perspectives.The advantages of 360-degree feedback include drawing on many different sources, strengthening teamwork, and uncovering procedural issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. How 360-Degree Feedback Works Successful organizations strive to evaluate and guide their employees toward constant improvement, but a standard performance review system is often found wanting. 360-degree feedback is a method and a tool that provides each employee the opportunity to receive performance feedback from his or her supervisor or manager and four to eight peers, reporting staff members, coworkers, and customers. Most 360-degree feedback tools are also responded to by each individual in a self-assessment. Organizations can do a poor job of introducing and using this type of multi-rater feedback process. But, it is possible, with the right steps, to do a good job of introducing and maximizing the value of 360-degree feedback. This matters because nothing raises hackles as fiercely as a change in performance feedback methods, especially when they may affect decisions about an employee's compensation. Note 360-degree feedback allows each individual to understand how his effectiveness as an employee, coworker, or staff member is viewed by others. The most effective 360-degree feedback processes provide feedback that is based on behaviors that other employees can see. The feedback provides insight into the skills and behaviors desired in the organization to accomplish the mission, vision, and goals and live the values. The feedback is firmly planted in behaviors needed to exceed customer expectations. People who are chosen as raters or feedback providers are often selected in a shared process by both the organization and the employee. These are people who generally interact routinely with the person who is receiving feedback. Examples of 360-Degree Feedback Feedback provided for this review process can be as detailed or brief as the person giving it chooses to be. For example, a manager may give a detailed breakdown of goals they had discussed with the employee, the progress toward those goals, and the way the employee dealt with unexpected challenges along the way. A peer review might be much more basic, such as a note about what it's like to work with them. For example, a coworker could say something like "this worker is friendly and always completes their portion of the project by the deadline." Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback Pros Provides feedback to employees from a variety of sources Develops and strengthens teamwork and accountability Uncovers procedural issues that can hinder employee growth Reveals specific career development areas Reduces rater bias and discrimination tendencies Offers constructive feedback to improve employee outputs Supplies insight on training needs Cons Serves as only part of overall performance measurement system Causes organizational issues if implemented in hasty or incomplete fashion Can fail to add value if not effectively woven into existing performance plans Prevents recipients from getting more information because the process is anonymous Focuses on employee weaknesses and shortcomings instead of strengths Provides feedback from inexperienced raters, and groups can "game" the process Requires large degree of data collection and processing in some cases Pros Explained 360-degree feedback has many positive aspects and many proponents. According to Jack Zenger, a highly-regarded global expert on organizational behavior, he has come to recognize "...the value of 360 feedback as a central part of leadership development programs. It’s a practical way to get a large group of leaders in an organization to be comfortable with receiving feedback from direct reports, peers, bosses and other groups. Once leaders begin to see the huge value to be gained, in fact, we see them add other groups to their raters such as suppliers, customers, or those two levels below them in the organization." And later, Zenger adds: "More than 85% of all the Fortune 500 companies use the 360-degree feedback process as a cornerstone of their overall leadership development process. If you are not a current user, we encourage you to take a fresh look." Note Organizations that are happy with the 360-degree feedback component of their performance management systems identify these positive features of the process that manifest in a well-managed, well-integrated 360-degree feedback process. Improved feedback from more sources: This method provides well-rounded feedback from peers, reporting staff, coworkers, and managers and can be a definite improvement over feedback from just a single individual. 360 feedback can also save managers time in that they can spend less energy providing feedback as more people participate in the process. Coworker perception is important and the process helps people understand how other employees view their work. Team development: This feedback approach helps team members learn to work more effectively together. (Teams know more about how team members are performing than their manager.) Multi-rater feedback makes team members more accountable to each other as they share the knowledge that they will provide input on each member’s performance. A well-planned process can improve communication and team development. Personal and organizational performance development: 360-degree feedback is one of the best methods for understanding personal and organizational developmental needs in your organization. You may discover what keeps employees from working successfully together and how your organization's policies, procedures, and approaches affect employee success. In many organizations that use 360-degree feedback, the focus has switched to identifying strengths. That makes sense for employee performance development. Responsibility for career development: For many reasons, organizations are no longer responsible for developing the careers of their employees—if they ever were. While the bulk of the responsibility falls on the employee, employers are responsible for providing an environment in which employees are encouraged and supported in their growth and development needs. Multi-rater feedback can provide excellent information to an individual about what he or she needs to do to enhance their career. Additionally, many employees feel 360-degree feedback is more accurate, more reflective of their performance, and more validating than feedback from a supervisor alone who rarely sees them working. This makes the information more useful for both career and personal development. Reduced discrimination risk: When feedback comes from a number of individuals in various job functions, the possibility of discrimination because of race, age, gender, and so forth is reduced. The "horns and halo" effect, in which a supervisor rates performance based on his or her most recent interactions with the employee, is also minimized. Improved customer service: Each person receives valuable feedback about the quality of their product or services, especially in feedback processes that involve the internal or external customer. This feedback should enable the individual to improve the quality, reliability, promptness, and comprehensiveness of these products and services they supply to their customer. Training needs assessment: 360-degree feedback provides comprehensive information about organization training needs and thus allows planning for classes, online learning, cross-functional responsibilities, and cross-training. Note A 360-degree feedback system does have a good side. However, 360-degree feedback also has a bad side—even an ugly side. Cons Explained For every positive point made about 360-degree feedback systems, detractors can offer the downside. The downside is important because it gives you a road map of what to avoid when you implement a 360-degree feedback process. The following are potential problems with 360-degree feedback processes and a recommended solution for each one. Exceptional expectations for the process: 360-degree feedback is not the same as a performance management system. It is merely a part of the feedback and development that a performance management system offers within an organization. Additionally, proponents of the system may lead participants to expect too much from this feedback system in their efforts to obtain organizational support for its implementation. Make sure that the 360 feedback is integrated into a complete performance management system and not used as a stand-alone venture. Design process downfalls: Often, a 360-degree feedback process arrives as a recommendation from the HR department or is shepherded in by a senior leader who learned about the process at a seminar or in a book. Just as an organization implements any planned change, the implementation of360-degree feedback should follow effective change management guidelines. A cross-section of the people who will have to live with and utilize the process should explore and develop the process for your organization. Failure to connect the process: For a 360 feedback process to work, it must be connected with the overall strategic aims of your organization. If you have identified competencies or have comprehensive job descriptions, give people feedback on their performance of the expected competencies and job duties. The system will fail if it is an add-on rather than a supporter of your organization’s fundamental direction and requirements. It must function as a measure of the accomplishment of your organization’s big and long-term picture. Insufficient information: Since 360-degree feedback processes are currently usually anonymous, people receiving feedback have no recourse if they want to further understand the feedback. They have no one to ask for clarification about unclear comments or for more information about particular ratings and their basis. Thus, developing 360 process coaches is important. Supervisors, HR staff people, interested managers, and others are taught to assist people to understand their feedback and trained to help people develop action plans based on the feedback. Focus on negatives and weaknesses: At least one book, "First Break All the Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently," advises that great managers focus on employee strengths, not weaknesses. The authors said, "People don't change that much. Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough." These are apt words when you consider a 360-degree feedback methodology. Focus on strengths for best success. Rater inexperience and ineffectiveness: In addition to the insufficient training organizations provide both people receiving feedback and people providing feedback, there are numerous ways raters go wrong. They may inflate ratings to make an employee look good. They may deflate ratings to make an individual look bad. They may informally band together to make the system artificially inflate everyone’s performance. Checks and balances must exist to prevent these pitfalls as well as training for the people who are providing the ratings. Overload on paperwork and data entry: In traditional 360 evaluations, multi-rater feedback upped the sheer number of people participating in the process and the subsequent time invested. Fortunately, most multi-rater feedback systems now have online entry and reporting systems. This has almost eliminated this former downside. 360-degree feedback is a positive addition to your performance management system when implemented with care and training to enable people to better serve customers and develop their own careers. Note However, if you approach it haphazardly just because everyone else is using it, 360 feedback could create a disaster requiring months and possibly years for you to recover. There are negatives with the 360-degree feedback processes, but with any performance feedback process, it can increase positive, powerful problem solving and provide you with a profoundly supportive, organization-affirming method for promoting employee growth and development. However, in the worst case, it saps morale, destroys motivation, and enables disenfranchised employees to go for the jugular or plot revenge scenarios against people who rated their performance less than perfect. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) What is the meaning of 360-degree feedback? Feedback becomes "360-degree feedback" when it takes in comments from many different sources. Traditional feedback in the workspace comes from managers and supervisors, but 360-degree feedback also takes into account reviews from peers and employees who answer to the person being reviewed. What is an example of 360-degree feedback? Any feedback can be an example of 360-degree feedback, but workplaces will specify the types of comments they're seeking from employees. These comments can be as simple as "this worker has shown up late a few times this quarter," or they can be much more detailed. What is the importance of 360-degree feedback? The purpose of the 360-degree feedback is to assist each individual to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to contribute insights into aspects of their work that need professional development. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Forbes. "How Effective Are Your 360-Degree Feedback Assessments?" Gallup. "First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently." Gallup Press, 2016.