360º review systems are often dissed by everyone except the people administering them. They’re so-called because they allow everyone in the organization around you — manager, boss’s boss, peers, subordinates and maybe even subordinates’ subordinates — to rate your performance.
And that’s the problem:
360º reviews get people to think of things you don’t do well, often for the first time. They will always see that flaw in you afterwards. Even if they lie on the review.
Once you see something, you can’t unsee it. It’s like those diagrams where there’s a hidden word. Once it’s pointed out, you’re always going to see it.
This isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Many of our relationships seem great until you shine the light of examination onto them.
It’s a problem of the Rational Brain having to talk with the Emotional Brain. Most of the time we make decisions completely with our Emotional Self. All learning, as Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Shanker point out in The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans, is affective: you gain new understanding through emotions. This is surprising to many but the support is pretty strong in the current research.
What happens is that our bodies decide to do something. We then use our Rational Brain to justify what we have done. And we’re great at justifying what we’ve done.
The light of the Rational Brain isn’t the light of day but the searing radiation of noon in Death Valley. It isn’t about seeing things as they are but justifying what one is doing.
There may be some times when rationality comes into play on its own but it’s rare and extremely uncomfortable. Which is why no one wants to go through Warren Kinston’s THEE Online.
Most of the time workers are smart enough to see these things as what they are and avoid making any comments about their boss except “Wow i sure do love him!” or “She sure is a great boss!”
For the boss it’s slightly different. Your boss may never have bothered looking at your faults, beyond your performance numbers. “Hank hits his numbers and his employee turnover is better than most. He’s doing fine.”
But 360º reviews sometimes force reviewers to see bad things about you. “Dish the dirt!” they say. “You must know something! Tell us or we’ll gouge your eyes out with this stapler!”
Okay, maybe they don’t do that but they still often force people to evaluate your weaknesses. And once they start thinking about it they see that you’re not perfect.
It’s like asking a happily married couple to think about why they are happy: for the most part, that just leads to unhappiness, because in the end there’s no really good reason for the happiness, it just is.
Managerial judgment, straight-forward and decent, is more useful. As is what Nick Forrest calls “the wash up” of information from your subordinates.