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360-Degree Evaluation           Home         Performance Appraisal

Recently, a Manager was scheduled for an unusual performance evaluation. His work was going to be rated not just by his boss, but by his co-workers and his subordinates.

Not surprisingly, he was more than a little anxious.

``It was like opening up the envelope to see whether I'd passed or failed, or whether I'd gotten into the college I wanted,'' he recounted.

Despite those initial worries, he ended up an enthusiastic supporter of what is called ``360-degree assessment''-- reviews carried out not just by the boss, but by peers and underlings as well.

More and more of the corporate world is being bitten by the 360 bug.

The Trend

Companies that once used 360 only for training elite managers are starting to apply it throughout their workforce.

The surge of interest is partly due to the increased use of teams within the business world -- where fellow team members often know more about each other's day-to-day performance than the boss.

It's also a backlash against earlier management trends that rewarded people strictly for meeting financial goals. Unlike those reviews, a 360 assessment focuses more on how workers do their job.

Companies using 360 say it boosts productivity by giving workers a more accurate sense of their personal strengths and weaknesses.

But they also acknowledge that the review, if done poorly, can create widespread confusion and resentment.

How to Use the Results?

Meanwhile, many personnel experts question whether 360 should be used as a basis for raises and promotions -- or just as a tool for employee development. Why taint it by bringing it into pay decisions?

The form of 360 programs vary widely from company to company, but here' how a typical program might work:

-- An employee chooses several people for her evaluation. The number ranges between six and 12, and includes people in the company who know her work well.

-- Those people fill out anonymous questionnaires and rate the employee on criteria such as the ability to build consensus or make timely decisions.

-- The results are tabulated by computer, and the employee is given a report that summarizes her performance.

-- She goes over the results with her manager, and puts together a long-term plan to improve her work.

There's also the risk that employees will band together to give each other inflated grades or treat the system as a game and learn how to play it.The temptation to engage in such cheating is far greater when companies use 360 to determine pay raises or promotions. Although some supporters say there are statistical ways to check for cheating, others say it's best to keep 360- degree reviews completely separate from pay decisions.

If you just use it for development, you avoid the issue of, `I don't want to say something bad about my friend '

In the short run, though, the salient question may be whether employees can survive the deluge of evaluation forms that have started landing on their desks for co-workers, subordinates, and bosses.

``I've heard complaints that there's always a 360 in the in-box waiting to be completed, and each one takes 40 or 45 minutes.''

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Subordinate Feedback                    Home                Performance Appraisal

Job-performance reviews are often lessons in frustration: Subordinates feel intimidated and defensive, and bosses never know if a critique will actually lead to change.

In the quest to make reviews more accurate and more enlightening, psychologists are promoting less-traditional feedback methods. These methods-upward and multiple-source feedback-seek performance information apart from a superior's evaluation. Psychologists differ, however, over effectiveness of these methods in spurring bosses to change their behavior.

In general, upward feedback refers to how subordinates rate their supervisors.

Multiple-source feedback collects ratings about an employee from more than one source-peers, self and subordinates, for example.

Raters score the individual on a number of work behaviors within an area. The scores are usually on a scale, such as 'strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree.'

The techniques give employees and supervisors feedback from traditionally untapped sources.

'The superior doesn't have the only perspective on a subordinate's performance,' said industrial organizational psychologist.

Anecdotal information indicates that these feedback methods heighten managers' awareness of their strengths and weakness; create an atmosphere of constructive dialogue; remove personal blind spots; and are a powerful incentive for change.

Many companies have used the new feedback techniques, which fit well with the corporate trend of team management, employee empowerment and total quality management. In fact, these feedback systems are evolving from their initial function as employee development tools into more official assessments used to decide merit pay increases and advancement.

A manager can easily feel overwhelmed when receiving feedback from dozens of people on dozens of work behaviors-especially if the ratings greatly vary. To make these feedback systems effective, they must be interpreted by psychologists or other human resources professionals, researchers said.

For example, a supervisor's ratings in the area of managing subordinates might be positive from the subordinates themselves, but negative from peers. An interpreter could inform the peers that they might give more credence to subordinates' views because they actually see how the manager is managing people.But the results should also point out that the supervisor needs to communicate better with peers so that their skills are more evident.

'In the hands of a skilled facilitator, the feedback need not confusing.

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