viaPeople Insight - Performance Management & Succession Planning Blog

6 Ways to Overcome Resistance to 360 Degree Feedback

Posted by Karen Caruso, Ph.D. on Oct 8, 2018 5:11:00 PM

Organizations seeking to implement a 360 feedback process still encounter resistance to the use of this powerful tool. Resistance can come from a variety of sources and is often associated with myths and half-truths. As I wrote in the article, Exposing the Truth About 360 Degree Feedback, poor implementation of 360 feedback can cause misinformation and distrust in the 360 feedback process.

360 feedback resistance 

Assess Readiness for 360 Feedback

Taking time to determine your company’s readiness to embrace 360 degree feedback will help you in creating and executing your launch plan. Whether it is used strictly for development or integrated into the performance evaluation process, 360 degree feedback offers leaders insight into the ways they can improve their impact on the company. You can take the necessary steps to increase your organization's readiness for 360 feedback by Downloading the eBook: Are You Ready for 360?

Understand Potential Obstacles

When implementing 360 feedback, it is important to consider potential resistance from the primary stakeholders – Reviewees, Reviewers, and Leadership. Push back from either one or all of these stakeholder groups will cause roadblocks in your implementation…or at least make the road a bumpy one.

Resistance from 360 Reviewees

The individuals who will receive feedback as part of 360 feedback are likely to have concerns, even if they have participated in a similar process in the past. Receiving feedback, whether positive or critical, can be stressful and emotional. Most people have concerns about how they will react to receiving feedback, especially if they are taken by surprise with new information. This is completely normal and to be expected. In addition, reviewees are likely to be concerned about how/with whom the feedback will be shared and the potential impact of the feedback results on future pay and promotion decisions.

Resistance from Reviewers

360 degree feedback will not be valuable to reviewees and the organization if reviewers are hesitant to provide candid feedback. Individuals may be reluctant to provide honest feedback due to lack of experience and training.  They may have concerns over anonymity and be fearful that the reviewee or someone else will find out what they wrote. Lastly, reviewers may be worried about the way in which the feedback will be used and do not want to say something that could result in negative consequences for the reviewee.

Resistance from Leadership

Senior leadership support for 360 feedback is vital. If top leaders do not visibly support and champion the process then there is no reason for anyone else in the organization to do so. Senior leaders who resist, even in a passive manner, send the message that 360 feedback is not important.  While top leader support is critical, resistance from leaders at any level can be harmful. Leaders may attempt to block the process and protect their teams because of their own uncertainty and concern. Their concerns are transmitted to their teams and can fuel further opposition.

Reducing Resistance

As in any change initiative, you need to address both emotional and intellectual resistance. Communication and launch activities should work together to win both the minds and the hearts of participants. Intellectual resistance to 360 feedback is all about information; emotional resistance to 360 feedback is related to commitment and safety. The 6 tips below incorporate both intellectual and emotional aspects of building support for 360 degree feedback.

1. Define the Purpose of 360 Feedback

Your first step to success is to be sure that you have clearly determined the purpose of 360 feedback within the organization. Consider the 5 questions below:

    • How will using 360 help the organization improve leadership skills, engagement, and performance?
    • Will the results of 360 be integrated into the performance evaluation process? If so, how will the data by used?
    • Will 360 be used strictly for individual development?
    • Will there be a linkage with succession planning?
    • Will this be used to drive training initiatives or other leadership development programs?

Need more information? Download: 360 Degree Feedback for Development or Dollars: The Debate Continues...

2. Map Out and Execute a Solid Communication Plan

Your communication plan should include clear messages and be delivered using a variety of methods. Do not be concerned about over-communication; error on the side of more versus less when it comes to communication. The more information that is communicated to the participants up front, the more you will ease apprehension and minimize confusion around the process. As you articulate your messaging, anticipate the questions and concerns of all stakeholder groups and plan to target communication to address their needs. Be sure to include:

    • The purpose of 360 feedback,
    • The benefits to all stakeholders,
    • The ways in which confidentiality and anonymity will be maintained,
    • How information and results will be provided to participants, and
    • How results will be used and not used.

3. Prepare Individuals to Receive Feedback

As discussed above, 360 reviewees have a unique set of concerns about the 360 process. Taking steps to prepare them through communication and a bit of orientation can go a long way in building trust. Plan to educate reviewees on how to maximize their openness to receiving feedback and ways in which they can prepare to approach the process with a positive attitude. Refer to my previous article for more information: 7 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Your 360 Degree Feedback Process.

4. Prepare Reviewers to Provide Feedback

While 360 degree feedback has been utilized in companies for decades, reviewers are often concerned about their ability to provide fair and accurate feedback to colleagues. In order to reduce any potential resistance to participate, offer resources and training to reviewers to assist them in providing accurate ratings and crafting helpful and constructive comments. A recent article by my colleague, Amanda Seidler, may be of help in determining your approach: Building a Culture of Feedback Requires Performance Feedback Skills.

5. Create a Success Story

We all know that building champions for the 360 feedback process with senior executives is important for success. When the interest in 360 feedback within an organization is high, it may be tempting to launch the process with a team or business group to create a success story. Don't take this easy route. Instead, plan to launch your 360 program by having a group of top leaders participate in the process. This top group will not only provide you with valuable pilot feedback but will serve as your champions going forward.

6. Offer Interpretation and Development Planning Support

Individuals receiving feedback will likely have concerns about the steps that they should take once they get their results. As such, it is important to have a plan for feedback delivery so that participants understand what will happen in advance and will trust in the process. The results of 360 feedback should can be delivered as part of individual coaching sessions or in group sessions. One-on-one sessions with external coaches seem to work best for senior leaders as external coaches offer a new perspective and do not have any pressure to side-step development issues. Group feedback and development sessions are typically very well received. Participants are guided through the process of feedback interpretation and can collaborate on creating development plans in a safe and supportive environment.

Are you ready to get started with 360 degree feedback? Download viaPeople's Ultimate Guide to Choosing a 360 Vendor.

Ultimate Guide to Choosing a 360 Degree Feedback Vendor

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Topics: 360 Degree Feedback