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360 Degree Feedback Positively Affects Employees Attitudes and Performance

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360 Degree Feedback Positively Affects Employees Attitudes and Performance

The 360 degree feedback method has had a positive impact on employee attitudes and performance. According to Human Resource Consultant William M. Mercer the 360 degree feedback has been gaining popularity with forty percent of American companies using it in 1995. By 2000 65 percent of American companies were using the 360 degree feedback method and by 2002 90% of the Fortune 500 companies were using this process for performance reviews. (Linman, 2006). Obviously, this method has been gaining popularity.

The 360 degree method has a positive effect on employees because of the outcomes it generates. It reduces overlap of job duties, creates accountability through written notification of appraisals and creates a space for communication regarding career development. More importantly, a 360 degree feedback method reduces stress for the supervisor and for the employee as supervisors are managing rather than reacting and employees know what is expected (UW-Madison). Though the benefits are large it is important to note that the 360 degree method is the most costly and comprehensive appraisal method - additionally, there are costs that are not apparently upfront. I believe these costs are the most important because they make the most difference. In my opinion these are the ingrained affective and behavioral reactions to the feedback.

When an employee has a negative reaction to feedback it can have significant impact on their behavior. Employees can become withdrawn, reduce their commitment to their organization, reduced interaction with colleagues and in general become defensive about their behaviors and attitude. I believe these negative behaviors should be closely monitored as they can produce extra costs for the organization through negative productivity and changing the mood of other employees.

Though negative reactions are common they aren't the main goal of the 360 degree feedback system. I believe the goal is to give the employee the opportunity to understand what is going wrong and to fix these areas. The most common friction points that exist with the perception of negative feedback are issues in the areas of interpersonal relationships, communication and management styles and the rest of the organization (Computer Sciences Corporation, 2004). Negative behavior can also cause reduced job satisfaction (and therefore motivation).

The 360 degree method provides individual motivation if the employee agrees to accept it. Prior to the 360 degree feedback employees have no intention to change their behavior in the near future. Here, employees are don't see problems or a need to change. Since employees don't initially understand the process they often become defensive when they are told of problems that are happening and try and reject the change. Since the 360 degree process is so expensive the goal is to encourage employees to move through the process successfully with positive behaviors. Employees must accept the feedback or the changes will not occur.

I believe that for the 360 degree feedback model to be interpreted positively and to avoid negative behaviors the deliverer of the feedback must be specialized in his/her position. This coach should have experience with giving feedback in a positive matter and is used to the varying reactions that come from feedback. An experienced feedback person can assist in interpreting the feedback correctly.

Appropriate coaching sessions should be encouraging, self reflective (helping the employee realize what is triggering the reactions from the 360 degree feedback), a time to examine their performance level and create a developmental plan. I believe the feedback giver should focus on positively delivering this information and identify the common themes that raters are giving. Focusing on the common themes gives the employee a clear direction on how and where to improve. Empirical analysis shows the positive effect of combining 360 degree feedback with coaching aimed at enhancing self awareness and positivity on increasing an employee's performance (Luthans, Peterson 2003).

When employees receive feedback from peers and supervisors they are taken outside of their comfort zone especially considering the feedback may not be positive. Negative feedback can appear to be rejection and cause vulnerability and defensiveness. Additionally, negative feedback may threaten an employee's ability to feel they can change. I believe that a humans most intense emotions come when we interact with other people - negative feedback can strongly deter those relationships. In our professional lives, where it can be argued that we spend the majority of our time, our behaviors shape our image of ourselves. Important and critical needs such as recognition, respect and control are likely to affect interactions at work (Wertheim, 2004). This explains the difficulty an employee may experience accepting negative feedback from peers and supervisors in the workplace.

To decrease the negative impact and behavior from a 360 degree feedback method I believe it should be rephrased in a more positive light such as "corrective feedback." According to Dr. Keith Morran, a professor of Education at Indiana University, the level of defensiveness can be a barrier to receiving negative or "corrective feedback" and cites it as the most influential. To manage defensiveness I believe it's important to look at the perception gap between what the employee sees and the feedback demonstrates in order to changing the behaviors.

Interestingly, if an employee's drive to achieve is strong emphasizing gaps arouses anxiety and defensiveness. The employee then becomes de-motivated and the chance to change minimizes. Once an employee becomes defensive all of their energy goes into defending their behavior rather than looking at opportunities to change (Leadership Advantage, 2001).

The corrective feedback forces the employee to receive messages that are contrary to their perception of self and push themselves outside of their comfort zone. An employee's self perception are determined through their everyday work and social interactions with their peers and their supervisors. When feedback is regularly given it reduces the perception gap held by the employee and decreases the immediate defensive reaction. When feedback is given less regularly an employee can develop a skewed viewpoint of them and be more surprised by the feedback.

Input from the community via a 360 degree feedback system can help reduce the negative behaviors from this feedback



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