Why 360 Feedback Can Fail

Lack of leadership support

360 degree feedback programmes that are implemented by HR without much attention from the business leaders are less effective. Getting visible engagement and support from the leadership team will focus the attention of all involved. It sends a strong message about expectations from the process.

why 360 feedback can fail

Ineffective 360 degree feedback questions or system.

Quality and quantity of the questions is crucial. Too often questions either:

  • Don’t measure what’s important for the organisation or function
  • Are badly written – lengthy, ambiguous, multiple questions etc.
  • Are more like psychometric questions than behavioural.

Designing effective 360 degree questions is a skill and should be undertaken by someone with experience. Engaging leaders in identifying the areas to assess is a very good idea too.

Frustrations with a 360 degree feedback system can damage engagement very easily. Busy people need the system to be intuitive, reliable and clear. This is very important for the overall experience of those participating.

Poor quality 360 feedback.

Some people have very bad experiences and this is the reason why it can fail. Not only can this damage their work relationships, it also damages the reputation of the process. We’ve worked with leaders who had a bad experience many years ago, and still won’t support 360 as a result.

Educating all stakeholders is often overlooked but is so important. Participants need to invite the right people to give feedback. Respondents need training in how to give valuable, high quality feedback.

360 Feedback is not facilitated professionally

This meeting, where the report is shared and discussed should be transformational. However, too often it’s not and, at worst, can be demoralising or of no consequence.

Invest in training internal coaches or bring in external ones (which tends to enable participants to open up). This ensures that you maximise your investment and leaves participants energised and enthusiastic about making changes.

Lack of confidentiality

People are often concerned about how the data will be used and if it will remain confidential. You need to assure them right from the start that it is a confidential process. This needs to be explicit and, of course, honest.
If an internal person, HR for example, is going to be sent the report for onward distribution, this should be a transparent part of the process.

Using a 3rd party 360 degree system, an external project manager, who is often provided by the 360 system provider, and engaging external feedback coaches will all help to reassure participants.

Only when confidentiality is not a concern, will respondents be fully candid with their feedback and participants open up to fully explore and work on the outputs from the report.

Nothing happens as a result

Perhaps one of the most frustrating mistakes occurs right at the end of the process. 360 feedback is only helpful to the extent that it gets acted upon and used. Many programmes simply don’t have a follow up process. Line managers are often forgotten and they are an essential aid to a participant’s development. Participants should be encouraged, although not forced, to share their report with their line manager to get their support for changes. We’ve worked with participants who shared their results with their teams and their colleagues, now, that is powerful.


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