Ever been asked to review your boss? You might want to get ready. A Society for Human Resource Management survey last year found that 32 percent of human resource professionals were using 360-degree feedback for executives at their companies. “Three-sixty” involves reviewing employees from all angles?that is, getting input from bosses, subordinates, peers and even customers. The many perspectives give a more complete sense of a person’s effectiveness on the job and can help an organization focus on long-term goals by clarifying how each employee can contribute to the company.
Still, the tool is no panacea for dysfunctional organizations to work their way out of trouble. Giving honest and complete information to a boss about his performance can be tough and requires a high level of trust. If the method is used just to gather dirt on troublesome people whom everyone loathes but no one has the gumption to fire, then the process will be perceived as punitive. “It’s something you do in a relatively healthy organization. If it’s [being considered] because management lacks the courage to give straight feedback then don’t use it,” says Maxine Dalton, a practice area director at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C.
To ensure that reviewers feel secure enough to give an honest review, protect confidentiality?specific sources should not be identified when presenting results to managers. If the review requires rating on a numbered scale, use averages. If narrative comments are given, aggregate the highlights. Michelle Collins, a consultant with HR Development in Dallas, advises that reviewers answer questions about their observations, such as a manager’s ability to meet deadlines or follow through on requests. They should think back over the entire year rather than an incident that happened one time.
“The feedback should always be about individual and business performance,” says Richard Lepsinger, a partner with Right Consulting in Stamford, Conn. “It’s not just that nice warm squishy thing of, ’Wouldn’t it be nice to know?’” The goal for the boss who’s being reviewed, he says, should be to enhance his performance so all of you can enhance the business’s performance. To make this work, it’s important to review how the manager’s personal goals tie into the company’s long-term strategy.
Bosses should acknowledge the receipt of results. Collins advises managers to get their teams together, thank them for the feedback and tell them what they’ve learned. According to Dalton, a boss makes herself publicly accountable if she explains what she’s working on based on the reviews. “People who do that consistently show improvement on subsequent ratings,” she says.