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360 Feedback for Direct Reports

360 Feedback for Direct ReportsHow line managers can make the most of 360 feedback for their direct reports.


Line managers have a huge role to play in making 360 feedback a success. A key benefit of a 360 report should be a constructive discussion between you and your team member about their performance, your expectations, and how you can best support their development. To get the most out of the process, consider the following tips :


Tip 1: Make sure the purpose is clear. Why have you selected your team member to get 360 feedback? Who will see the report? How will the data be used? What are they expected to do with the feedback? What happens afterwards?

Tip 2: Be clear about your role in the process, as well as the role of HR. What will the participant expect from you? What should you expect from the participant? What is HR responsible for and what are you responsible for?

Tip 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Send out an e-mail, follow up with a phone call. People need both – a written communication they can refer back to, and a phone call or meeting to answer all the questions that may arise “between the lines.” Never assume that participants understand your message exactly as you intend it.

Make sure your communication is 100% aligned with any messages they are getting from HR.

Tip 4: If the participant shares their report with you, ask them to start the conversation. What do they see as the most important messages? What surprised them? What do they disagree with? What questions do they have for you? How did they find your feedback?

If the participant e-mails you or gives you a full copy of the report, feel free to push it back to them, prompting them with the questions above. It is their responsibility, not yours.

Tip 5: When giving your direct report 360 feedback through the questionnaire or during a discussion afterwards, be specific AND constructive. Talk about observable behaviours and actions rather than personality traits. Be specific about the situations in which you have observed this behaviour, and the impact. This can open up a constructive discussion about whether the impact the person had was what they intended; if not, how could they do it differently?

Tip 6: If you have tough feedback to give, give it! People want to know what their boss honestly thinks of their performance. They especially want to know if they are not meeting expectations, and what they can do to improve.

Tip 7: If you have positive feedback, give it! A little praise goes a long way. Managers sometimes hold back, not wanting to “overdo” it, or because they think it is obvious. This is rarely the case, and even if it is, it never hurts to reinforce effective behaviours.

Tip 8: Give balanced feedback. Be aware of some common rating errors:

Halo effect: You like the person, so you tend to give them positive ratings without much discrimination among the competencies measured, and without using the whole rating scale. You may also be reluctant to give them lower ratings for fear of demotivating them or giving them an “unpleasant surprise.”

Horn effect: you dislike the person, feel they dislike you, are disappointed in their performance, or have an overall negative view of them, so you tend to rate them low on everything, and/or discount what they are doing well. This may also be because you want to send a clear message or warning, but the effect may be so strong that they reject all of your ratings (resulting in no credibility) and you instill a climate of distrust that makes dialogue much more difficult.

Recency effect: You react strongly to something that recently happened, positive or negative. Your ratings focus on the participant’s immediate performance – say, the past month – rather than rating the trends in their behaviour over the past 6-12 months.

Tip 9: Make open ended comments as specific as possible. “Needs to communicate better” can lead to a lot of assumptions on the part of the participant which may or may not correspond with what you have in mind. What do you mean by communicate? With which audience? In which situations is this most important? What should he or she do differently?

The same goes for positive feedback. “Communicates well” sounds great, but what exactly do you have in mind? Written? Oral? With which constituencies? In which situations? What is the impact you have observed?

Remember, most people will accept feedback from their boss – positive or critical – as long as it is balanced and as long as they feel they can do something about it. They also take feedback from the boss as a sign that their contribution is valued and their boss is interested in their development. Which bring us to . . . .

Tip 10: DO fill out the questionnaire, give it sufficient time and attention and DO follow-up!

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