A contrarian view on 360 degree feedback

Many traditional assessment tools such as 360 degree and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator feedback instruments often reveal and focus on symptomatic issues rather than addressing root causes of organizational challenges. Let’s consider the 360.

Your manager holds you to account for your work. He assigns you tasks, with associated quality, quantity, timeframe and resource considerations. He sets the context for you, understands the complexities and constraints within which you need to execute, and has the broad picture within which to assess your performance. Your staff and peers do not have this same context or understanding, nor are they operating at a level of complexity to be able to make these assessments.

Your staff and peers may report that you didn’t deliver something to them as they asked, or that you don’t appear to cooperate, or that you don’t make time for them as they ask for it, etc., which they might deem an issue, but these may very well not be legitimate issues if they’re not immediately in line with what your manager wants you to do.  Your accountability is to make sure that the work your manager assigns gets done to his specifications, not to take care of the (often extraneous) needs of others, which you might fairly (and politely) give short shrift in the course of executing your real work.

Input from staff and colleagues is supplementary intelligence that your manager should gather and use in his overall assessment of you; it shouldn’t be the driving force for performance management. If it becomes evident that you’re not always responding to the needs of others, it may be worth your manager knowing and doing something about (coaching), but it’s only a part of the picture and may not have the relevance to your performance that it’s too often given.