360 degree appraisal: a pillar of informal mentoring & professional development.

AuthorKarkoulian, Silva

    Performance appraisal has been an imperative pillar of the study of organizational behavior. It is only recently that 360 degree feedback appraisal has emerged as a key element of performance appraisal. This approach (360 degree feedback) derives input from all individuals in contact with the employee in a certain work environment; this includes supervisor, peers, subordinates and customers (Mondy, 2010).

    In his writings, Robbins (1998) states that 360 degree evaluation adds value to an organization that seeks to enhance employee involvement, since it seeks input from all those involved with the employee, even customers. It also reduces risk of prejudice in the process of evaluating an employee; and encourages employees to become more relationship oriented rather than task oriented.

    Clair and Temple (1999) maintain that employee strengths and weaknesses are identified by the 360 degrees feedback technique and by doing so can easily enhance professional development which is an ongoing process thus it "fosters critical reflection and meaningful collaboration". McGregor (1990), on the other hand, claims that 360 degree feedback reinforces mentoring and provides support to both mentors and mentees by identifying areas that need further training, support or feedback.

    In this paper, the researcher will investigate 360 degree feedback and its relation to mentoring processes and professional development.


    2.1 Performance Appraisal

    Performance appraisal may be defined as "an on-going systematic evaluation of how well an individual is carrying out the duties and responsibilities of his or her current job" (Caruth, 1986, p. 235).

    Appraisal is most valuable when evaluating an individual's performance. It is needed in recommending a salary increase, and encouraging developmental growth within a position. After all, what is the benefit of extra effort on the job if there was no performance appraisal? How will managers be able to identify the need for training, both for improving individual performance and for greater organizational effectiveness without performance evaluation?

    360 degree performance appraisal as an outcome of performance appraisal entails feedback from all individuals that an employee comes in contact with on the job including his/her immediate supervisor, subordinates, customers and others. Hence, managers are relieved from the uncomfortable feeling of "playing God" (McGregor, 1990 p.155). However, Levinson (1991a) seems to disagree with McGregor in that matter. Levinson views appraisal of subordinates as a "hostile aggressive act" (Levinson, 1991b p.31), thus the use of 360 degree appraisal circumvent this hostile act by delegating the review process to supervisors, subordinates and customers.

    While there are inherent disadvantages in all appraisal systems, which if carried improperly would result in distrust and decreased morale in the work place, "performance appraisals are here to stay" (Longenecker, 1989, p. 76).

    The purpose of appraisal systems, therefore, should be identifying employee's poor performance, and providing them with a positive outlook. The evaluation and assessment process need to be continually improved, thus ensuring the accountability of the individual (Beer, 1986).

    Normally, training is an outcome of appraisal systems. Positive appraisal could be another outcome, but there are also other advantages beyond the psychological benefits mentioned by Fitz-enz (1995). Thus, if conducted effectively, 360 degree performance appraisal, gives individual members insights on how to improve their performance, and contributes to improving morale in organizations.

    2.2 360 Degree Appraisal and Feedback Method

    Many approaches can be used in appraising performance such as: Immediate supervisor appraisal, Self-Review appraisal, Team appraisal, Peer group appraisal, Upward appraisal, Overall assessment appraisal, and the 360 degree appraisal. Each appraisal process has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, the method that seems to combine the best appraisal methods is the 360 degree appraisal. 360 degrees appraisal is based on feedback from all contacts the employees encounter every day at work; supervisors, peers and subordinates (Mondy, 2010), and seems well suited for organizations that encourage employee development and total quality management system (Robbins, 1998). These evaluations help managers by providing a wider range of performance-related feedback than the traditional evaluations i.e. self-review. For this reason, this method of appraisal is increasingly gaining awareness and may someday become the rule rather than the exception.

    In addition, with so many employees reporting to one manager, it has become more difficult for supervisors to judge each individual's performance accurately. The immediate supervisor's assessment has become synchronous with today's emphasis on teamwork and participative management (Gomez-Mejia et al, 1995). However, 360 degree appraisal must be carefully managed, so that its focus remains on constructive, rather than harmful criticism (Moorhead & Griffen, 1998).

    The 360 degree appraisal method combines upward appraisal with Peer appraisal and Immediate Supervisor appraisal. 360 degree appraisal technique reduces bias and appears to be a better method of appraisal and information feedback on employee performance (Kermally, 1997). Because 360 degree feedback improves the quality of the information received on employee performance (Torrington, et. al. 2008), it creates an opportunity for those closest to the work (or appraisee) to evaluate how well the appraisal has been done and whether or not it can be improved.

    A survey cited by French (2007) shows that about 40 percent of companies chose to use 360 degree appraisal in 1995, and 65% in 2000, and the trend is growing. Companies currently using this approach include McDonnell-Douglas, AT&T, Allied Signal, DuPont, Honeywell, Boeing, and Intel. Dean (1993) quoted Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric, about 360 degree feedbacks in the 'Managing' section of Fortune Magazine: "To embed our values, we give our people 360 degree feedback with input from superiors, peers and subordinates. These are the roughest evaluations you can get, because people hear things about themselves they've never heard before. But they get the input they need, and the chance to improve, "if they don't...

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