Maximizing 360-Degree Feedback Honesty

People often dislike providing feedback, especially when it is unfavorable. In many cases, the risk of having one’s identity revealed is not even worth the risk of sharing in the first place (Fleenor et al. 2008).  This concept is particularly advantageous today because there is a slim risk of revealing an individual’s particular responses, therefore maximizing 360-degree feedback honesty. Many third-party platforms, including Vision Metrics, do not even send the individual data to the human resources professionals. This anonymity gives confidence to individuals to provide honest responses without fear of repercussion.

Regardless of the anonymous nature, it is imperative that employees know this feedback is not part of their pay, promotion, disciplinary actions, and other related administrative criteria, any of those factors could add additional motivation to provide biased answers. A study proved that up to 35% of participants would change their ratings if they were used for administrative purposes, such as pay or promotion (Waldman, Atwater, and Antonioni, 1998). Even if this is stated, an employee must trust his or her organization to actually uphold this value and use the feedback strictly for developmental purposes.

To maximize feedback honesty, Likert also suggests changing the extremes in the scale, or occasionally swapping the right in the left. For example, displaying the scales “strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” on opposite continuums (Likert, 1932). This ensures that a rater reviews another employee by thoroughly reading the question. Broad discrepancies on this swapped continuum indicate a reviewer is not answering questions honestly and therefore, the data can be deemed incorrect. Other tips for effectively using the Likert Scale for honest feedback can be found here.

In many organizations, to administer the 360-degree feedback, a consultant will be hired to administer the tests and even handle the developmental coaching. In these instances, the coach interprets the 360-degree feedback results and creates a development plan to help increase the participant’s effectiveness around the set company objectives (Fleenor et al. 2008). This process is expensive, but it helps to ensure that the data remains entirely confidential and will be used strictly for the purpose of organizational development. As a result, employees also tend to place a higher value on the 360-degree feedback strategy.

References:

Fleenor, J., Taylor, S., Chappelow, C. (2008). Leveraging the impact of 360-degree feedback. Center for Creative Leadership.

Likert, R. (1932). A technique for the measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology. 140(22), 5-55.

Waldman, D., Atwater, L. A., & Antonioni, D. (1998). Has 360-degree feedback gone amok? Academy of Management Executive, 12, 86–94. , Google Scholar.