Worried about 360° Feedback? Ask Madeleine

Yes No Answer Questionnaire ConceptDear Madeleine,

I have been asked to participate in a 360 degree feedback program.

My boss and the HR team will see the results—and I think the results are going to be used to make promotion decisions.

I have a bad feeling about this. I’m not that worried about someone giving negative feedback, but the whole process feels very unsafe to me.

My participation seems to be optional. What do you think?


Dear Unsafe,

Well, this is a can of worms if there ever was one. There are entire books on this topic!

The best practice in most organizations is to give the results of a 360 report only to the person who is the subject of the feedback, and to offer the support of a trained professional to debrief the report with the participant and create an action plan based on the results. I have heard of organizations including 360 results in personnel decisions, but it is not a recommended practice. The problem with any feedback is that it usually says as much about the person giving it as it does about the person receiving it, so the results can be tricky to interpret. You can’t always be certain about anyone’s agenda, especially if that person has an ax to grind or is competing for a job with the subject of the feedback.

In your situation, I would say get more information to help you make the decision about whether or not to move ahead with the program. Questions to ask include:

  • What is the assessment, and is it a validated tool? (We have seen some 360 tools created “in house” that are really poorly written and confusing! This can invalidate any results.)
  • What does the assessment measure?
  • How will your raters be chosen and will you have input on the choice?
  • Will you get to see and learn from the results?
  • Will you get help to interpret the results and create an action plan based on them?
  • Who else will be doing this process?
  • Who exactly will be seeing the results?
  • How will the results be used to make decisions?
  • Just how optional is this opportunity?

Ultimately, declining a development opportunity never makes you look good. And properly sourced feedback can be a gift, so I am inclined to say go for it. But if you feel unsafe, I suspect there is a good reason for it.

Sit down with your boss and get answers to your questions. Share your uncertainty and ask your boss what he or she thinks you should do. A candid conversation about the whole thing will increase your confidence and ability to make the right decision for yourself.

Love, Madeleine

About the author


Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

4 thoughts on “Worried about 360° Feedback? Ask Madeleine

  1. 360 should never be used for this purpose. This will undermine trust and culture and could be litigable

    • Yes! I so agree, and yet, it is used this way all over the place! It just kills me – people feel so vulnerable and unsafe at work.

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