Eliminating Feedback Bias

Academics have researched how to keep administrative feedback generally accepted, unbiased, and fair. These goals, in part, led to the development of 360-degree feedback. Research in the field is only beginning to catch up with practitioner usage and the system is still being critiqued for several drawbacks regarding eliminating feedback bias (Levy, 2010). Regardless, 360-degree feedback is seen as a particularly positive step for mitigating bias as it is assumed that any idiosyncrasies of a single rater are seen as anomalies (Levy, 2010).

360-degree feedback has a general tendency to eliminate bias given the anonymous nature and properly formulated question structure. However, since raters do not always decipher questions the same way, raters’ expectations and perceptions of a particular behavior are open to interpretation (Byrne and Miller, 2009; Fleenor et al. 2008). In other words, the values and expectations amongst raters cannot be assumed cross-cultural. The feedback must be accepted with the broader objective in mind. And it is worth noting that all participants hold individual cultural values (Schipper et al. 2007). Research by Likert (1932) adds to this argument recognizing that factors such as group dynamics are merely a result of cultural circumstances. Though efforts have been made to try to mitigate this bias, the room for generalities and assumptions is where 360-degree feedback cannot be regarded as completely unprejudiced.

In addition to explaining the purpose of 360-degree feedback and the potential biases to employees, it can also be beneficial to mention certain tendencies of which to be aware. Social desirability, for example, is the tendency to make oneself look good for the perception of others (Van Herk, 2107). Explaining that 360-degree feedback is a tool for self-improvement and that there is no reason for exaggerating results could help to mitigate this bias. Furthermore recognizing the halo effect, central tendency, and strictness in feedback responses can skew more honest results (Ghorpade, 2000). Performing statistical tests will help to clean data, but it can be partially eliminated by stressing to employees the common predispositions when leaving feedback.

Ideally in a small, organizational setting reviewers would not rush through the 360-degree feedback survey, as they are motivated to help the organization to improve. However, eliminating responses where the feedback was answered very quickly is important because fast response times are likely to negatively affect the data quality (Van Herk, 2017).

References:

Byrne, Z. S., Miller, B. K. (March 2009). Is Justice the Same for Everyone? Examining Fairness Items Using Multiple-group Analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 24 (1), 51-64.

Ghorpade, J. (2000). Managing five paradoxes of 360-degree feedback. Academy of Management Executive, 14(1), 140–150.

Levy, Paul E. Industrial/organizational Psychology: Understanding the Workplace. 3rd ed. New York: Worth, 2010. 113-29. Print.

Shipper, F., Hoffman, R. C., Rotondo, D. M. (2007). Does the 360 Feedback Process Create Actionable Knowledge Equally Across Cultures? Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 33-50.

Van Herk, H., Poortinga, Y. H., & Verhallen, T. M. M. (2005). Equivalence of survey data: relevance for international marketing. European Journal of Marketing. 39(3/4), 351-364.