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How different roles give feedback in 360 degree appraisals


I hadn’t thought about this for a few years – I once wrote my MBA thesis on an analysis of narrative feedback in 360 degree appraisal. I was giving some feedback last week and I was struck by the use of different language by the different roles – supervisor, peer, self and direct reports.

So, I dug out the thesis – the dust is still settling. Much of what the analysis demonstrated has shown itself empirically over the last few years of working in the field.

First, bosses use business speak more than the other roles. Essentially, they transfer the behavioural statements into business related issues. Not right or wrong – but worth knowing.

Second, bosses are directional – they tell the recipient what they should do using words like “must”, “should”, needs to”. Other roles tend to not provide advice on the solution to the identified development need. This can also follow from differing standards which can lead to bosses scoring lower than other rating groups.

All roles use the narrative to contextualise the ratings they have been giving. Often they explain why a certain score was given (and demonstrate why using averages is pointless for most 360 feedback) and in many cases they counterbalance their rating with an insight into the situation where it happens and how they have seen improvement or otherwise over the last few months.

Rater bias is a rich subject area in 360 degree appraisals. I would strongly recommend working with people that understand it, the dangers of averaged reporting because of rater bias, and the power of narrative feedback to allow a trained debriefer to recognise it.

Brendan Walsh

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