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360 degree review evaluations

by Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D.

A 360o evaluation can be a helpful tool if it is correctly understood and properly used. Notice I said “correctly” understood and properly used. That is the important distinction this article will address. At the outset, a working explanation will be helpful for those who are new to this concept.

Regarding the 360o Evaluation concept Wikipedia states:

In human resources or industrial psychology, 360-degree feedback, also known as multi-rater feedback, multi-source feedback, or multi source assessment, is feedback that comes from members of an employee’s immediate work circle. Most often, 360-degree feedback will include direct feedback from an employee’s subordinates, peers, and supervisor(s), as well as a self-evaluation. It can also include, in some cases, feedback from external sources, such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. It may be contrasted with “upward feedback,” where managers are given feedback only by their direct reports, or a “traditional performance appraisal,” where the employees are most often reviewed only by their managers. The results from a 360-degree evaluation are often used by the person receiving the feedback to plan and map specific paths in their development. Results are also used by some organizations in making administrative decisions related to pay and promotions. When this is the case, the 360 assessment is for evaluation purposes, and is sometimes called a “360-degree review.” However, there is a great deal of controversy as to whether 360-degree feedback should be used exclusively for development purposes or should be used for appraisal purposes as well.

Again, the purpose of this kind of evaluation is to hopefully get a more “well-rounded” evaluation by seeing the co-worker from “all sides” thus the term 360o evaluation. In this brief article, this writer would like to simplify this 360o concept even more by using examples and illustrations as well as reveal the built-in flaw to this kind of evaluation process.

In a 360o evaluation, several peers evaluate a co-worker by giving their individual input regarding that person. By way of illustration, let’s say George has four co-workers, Bob, Jane, Fred, and Mary, who all work with him on a regular basis. They are all asked to evaluate George. Rather than having one person evaluate George and his work, several co-workers submit an evaluation form in order to gain or present a well-rounded, balanced approach. Hopefully, with each co-worker offering his or her personal evaluation, a better overall picture of George can be attained, and a more complete overall evaluation can be generated from several different directions. Thus, the name, a 360o evaluation.

However, there is a built-in flaw in this evaluation model. Regardless of how George is truly performing in his job all four co-workers mentioned above have a built-in predisposition based on his or her personality make up.

For example: Let’s suppose in this illustration that Bob is a strong “Dominant” personality type. He will evaluate George on the basis of results. If George is a top producer and a “go-getter,” then Bob will more than likely see George in a favorable light. However, if George is not as results-oriented as Bob, then it is probable that Bob will see George as lazy and a liability to the team’s efforts. Remember, George may be doing an excellent job in his daily work, but unless Bob has a clear understanding of George’s job description and can correctly evaluate him without bias, his own perspective or lens will be the guiding light for the evaluation.

I once worked for a gentleman who had the high Dominant style. I watched him fire an Inspiring style co-worker once for socializing too much. Yet, that person’s primary job was to be the “feel good guy,” counseling the staff and working in public relations. It is hard to measure “results” in public relations! The morale for the entire team suffered greatly.

Let’s say Jane is the “Inspiring” personality type. She will evaluate George on the basis of his responsive factor. If George is friendly to everyone and full of enthusiasm, life and energy, then Jane is going to give George a high evaluation.

Fred, on the other hand, is the “Supportive” personality type. He is reserved by nature and needs time to warm up to a situation before proceeding. He tends to measure success, not by results or responsiveness, but rather by relationship. Fred wants to know that you care about him as a person, not simply based on his performance. If he sees George as a warm, caring individual, then George will get a good evaluation. On the other hand, if George is a strong “go-getter,” Fred may feel all George does is run over people in order to get his own way. George’s evaluation will be poor. Again, the personality style of the one doing the evaluation must be taken into account because it certainly will influence the evaluator as well as the one being evaluated.

Finally, Mary is a “Cautious” personality type. She tends to measure everything in terms of whether or not they are done correctly or right. She is a stickler for details. She loves to plan her work then work her plan! Her love for details and procedures is somewhat exhausting. If George is detail-oriented, Mary will value him as part of the team. However, if George “shoots from the hip” and prefers to be spontaneous and work with each situation as it unfolds, Mary is not going to think too highly of his method of operation.

Now here is the truth of this situation: Each of George’s four co-workers is right in his or her outlook regarding George because it is coming from each individual’s personality driven perspective. Someone once wisely noted, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are!”

So, what is the solution to this dilemma?

First, start with the job description in mind. What is George responsible for doing? How is it measured? Can it be measured? What does the environment call for and can George meet the requirements of the environment? (For example: If George is supposed to be at work at 8:00 A.M. yet continually arrives at 8:30, that can be measured and evaluated.) Next, consider doing the evaluation in two parts. Require everyone to name three things in the evaluation that they appreciate about George and his work and three areas where he might improve. In other words, if a person is “forced” to look for a co-worker’s good points, maybe they will see things differently. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day!

Also, consider doing a team evaluation rather than individual ones. Allow George to share what he thinks his strong points are as well as areas of needed improvement. If George is lacking in noticing detail, then perhaps Mary can help him in that area since that is her expertise.

When I was in high school, Coach Anderson, a Dominant type, told me I was lazy. Coach Jones, the Inspiring type, told me I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Mrs. Raven, who was the Supportive type, told me she was proud of me for the good work I did in class. Miss Turner, a Cautious type, told me I was careless in my work. Which teacher do you think was right? All four were (from their perspective), but I responded best to Coach Jones because we had a similar personality style as well as a similar outlook on life. If they had been asked to give a 360o evaluation of me, it would have been very “mixed,” at best. Yet, all four of them brought something about me to light, based on his or her evaluation processing ability.

To be sure, the 360o evaluation has its merit, especially if it is used in a constructive manner. A team is only as good as its members. If each person on the team can clearly articulate his or her own personality style* and understands how he or she measures or evaluates other people, everyone wins! After all, if I understand you and you understand me, doesn’t it make sense that we can be in a position to have a better working relationship? And, better working relationships create a climate that is conducive to success and productivity for everyone concerned. Which company doesn’t want that?!


* Want to improve your 360 review process?

Incorporating DISC personality profiles into your 360 review process will allow review participants to consider the personality styles of each team member. You can visit our DISC profile store page to select the DISC profile that best suits your needs. It will be the best investment you ever made to make your 360 reviews more effective!

Booking Information for Dr. Rohm

To learn more about Dr. Robert A. Rohm, or to have him speak or teach his Ultimate Discovery System to your organization simply contact the Personality Insights, Inc. office 770-509-7113 or visit www.robertrohm.com

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