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A Full Circle Look at a Person
A 360 degree evaluation is simply the name given when a company asks for feedback about one worker from all of his co-workers, sometimes from the janitor to the manager or owner. Yes, active owners sometimes get involved in the process themselves. At the least, it's an evaluation based on input from all of the workers on the same team or in the same office suite. The evaluations are supposed to be anonymous.
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A Look at the Pros
Some project workers love the 360 degree review method. It frees a worker from relying on the singular feedback from a manager who may have issues or personal hang-ups that bar an objective judgment of the worker's achievements and attitude. By seeking feedback from all around, a manager or owner is able to get a better depiction that most people have of the worker. While sour grapes will occasionally poison someone's review, it usually becomes apparent because an entire office usually cannot harbor personal vendettas against one of the crew. If someone has personality issues, that can even become clear during this type of evaluation.
While the 360 degree method should be universally anonymous, it may give the one administering the evaluation insight into how the worker grades others. Someone who judges others harshly tends to think of himself in a certain manner, and these clues may help guide a manager. That is not the goal of this method, and is not an official use for it. However, some managers do take this into consideration. Workers should simply reply honestly to the questions asked during a 360 degree evaluation.
The 360 degree evaluation method generally encourages co-workers to treat one another with a greater respect and consideration. Someone who knows that all eyes are on her may be more apt to make eye contact or speak to her subordinates with a clearer sense that they're all in this together. Fair treatment to all should be common sense, but sometimes human nature needs a little push to greater goodness.
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What Are the Cons?
While there are clear advantages to the 360 degree evaluation, there are certainly drawbacks to this method of reviewing an employee's workplace performance. This evaluation can incite major drama in the workplace. If someone receives a negative review, tension may occur if she feels she can guess who the responsible party is. Paranoia can set in against all if she doesn't.
Because co-workers can seem more like friends, peers and comrades than superiors and managers, it can smart and hurt more when negative feedback comes directly from them.
A high level of professionalism is also required from the person in charge of 360 degree evaluations. If it's someone inside the office, gossip may ignite. She likely has friends within the office, and they might let something slip. It's best to employ the highest level manager or an outside group to be in charge of these sort of worker evaluations.