Are you a fan of 360-degree performance appraisals? Does the anonymous nature of the feedback bother you? Is periodic, anonymous feedback from leaders, peers, and subordinates a useful staff development tool?
The process begins with a third party (usually Human Resources) sending out assessment forms to leaders, peers, and subordinates. The forms are sent in, gathered, reviewed, and summarized for the staff member being assessed. Then, the hard part. The staff member reads, considers, and responds to their feedback. Pretty simple right?
I’ve done this many times, and it’s always the same. In my case, at least 98% of the assessment is right on, accurately identifying both my strengths and “areas in need of improvement,” another way to say “weaknesses.” And, there are a few comments that “sting” a bit. I’m not necessarily surprised by them. It’s just a little difficult to see them in writing and to have to deal with them. Ouch!
A typical 360-degree review includes self-assessment and assessments by an individual’s manager, peers, and direct reports. Of course, in the church, direct reports most often include many volunteers. The assessments are typically completed anonymously; assessors provide feedback without identifying themselves.
The obvious advantage of anonymous feedback is that a person gets the “straight scoop” on the perception of others. In my experience, there are some things a person thinks that they are not necessarily willing to tell me to my face. It is, nevertheless, important that I know about these perceptions in order to improve my relationships and overall effectiveness over time. Make sense?
Here’s the issue … especially in the church, shouldn’t everyone be expected to speak the truth to one another face-to-face? In Matthew 18, Jesus teaches us how to work out our differences. Isn’t it true that if one is unwilling to say it to a person’s face, it shouldn’t be said anonymously in a review?
The truth is no matter how good we are at creating a “speak the truth to one another” culture in the church, there’s always going to be a certain amount of opinion that is not shared. There’s always going to be a certain amount of unresolved conflict. It’s the human condition. We’re all still sinners, remember?
So what do I say to the people that are thinking, “How do I resolve the conflict if I don’t know who gave me the feedback?” Good question! I’ve struggled with this question since I was first trained in giving and receiving feedback using 360-degree assessment tools.
Here are a couple of facts. The chances are good (especially in a larger organization) that if one person is thinking it, others are as well. Therefore, the issue is not who said it … it’s what do I need to do to address it? And, in practice, there are plenty of opportunities to have one-on-one discussions with the team providing the feedback to ask questions about the feedback. Most often, especially in a healthy environment, people will “come clean” and help a person better understand what it is about their behavior that resulted in criticism or observation.
In my opinion, doing an anonymous 360 regularly is the best way to improve over time. It’s not painless, but it is the best way to really understand how what I am (or am not) doing affects others.
What do you think?