Is there a problem if we use "anonymous feedback" in 360?
Most companies using 360 degree feedback arrange things so the person recieving the feedback does not know what rating (or information) came from what specific person. In other words, the feedback is anonymous. Part of the thinking is that anonymous feedback will be more honest and accurate, since there won't be any fear of reprisal.
Are there problems with this practice? Yes. Serious ones.
- First, the assumption that anonymous feedback is more honest or accurate is unproven, and in fact, it's clear that people with an axe to grind, or who dislike the person they might be evaluating in a 360 context, will be freer to be more critical knowing their identities are hidden. It is true that fear of reprisal can be an issue, particularly when employees evaluate their manager, but there is an equal risk that people will be unfairly attacked anonymously. That's pretty ugly.
Second, consider the perceived value of feedback from someone you don't know. Part of the value of feedback is knowing that the person who provided it is in a position to accurately and constructively evaluate and help improve performance. When 360 is anonymous, the recipient has no sense of who said what. What often results is a lot of anger, and the actual feedback being ignored or demeaned because the sources are anonymous. Feedback works when it comes from a credible source. When the source is unknown how can it be credible?
Third, we know that the best human-to-human feedback allows for INTERACTION. That is, if performance is to improve the recipient of the feedback needs an opportunity to get clarification and additional details about what the feedback means. With anonymous feedback, the employee can't go talk to the originator of the particular feedback to get additional clarification, details or help. This seriously undermines the value of any feedback.
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