The 360-degree Review Sham

by F.

A reader writes to FT columnist Lucy Kellaway:

I have been asked by my boss to fill in a 360-degree appraisal form about him. He has been in the job for six months and so far has alienated most people on the team. He is an empire builder with a very high opinion of himself and he does not listen. My relationship with him is superficially OK, which is why he has approached me. If I write anything near the truth he will work out it comes from me (even though the form is anonymous). If I do not, I feel I will have been a coward – and that I will have missed a rare chance to tell him what he needs to know. Any advice?
(Banker, female, 34)

Kellaway hits this pinata with a piece of rebar:

You say this is a rare chance to tell your boss what he needs to know. It isn’t. It’s a (not so) rare chance to take part in one of the most unrealistic charades of corporate life. These 360-degree appraisals are hopelessly flawed, and will almost certainly have no effect on your boss’s future behaviour.

The very structure of most companies makes it almost impossible to say negative things about your boss. The fact that a “facilitator” (who will probably be no good) may stand between the two of you, massaging the feedback and making it anonymous, doesn’t help much. You are right, he will probably guess who dished the dirt, and for him the discovery that you think he is an empire builder who doesn’t listen will almost certainly make him think it is your behaviour that needs changing, not his.

This is so, so, so right. For the wrong answers, see FT.com.

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