Bouncing Back from a Negative 360-Degree Review
Written on the 8 July 2015 by Amy Gallo
Unlike traditional reviews and other types of feedback, 360-degree reviews include input from a comprehensive set of people: peers, managers, direct reports, and sometimes customers. One of the most valuable aspects of this tool is that the opinions are voiced anonymously, which encourages a higher level of honesty than you might normally get. However, the truth is not always pretty, and receiving a negative 360-degree review can be upsetting, especially when the opinions are echoed at many levels. But with the right attitude, you can still create a positive experience. How you handle a bad 360-degree review is far more important than the content of the review itself.
What the Experts Say
Reflect before reacting
Avoid a witch hunt
Decide what to respond to
Many 360-degree review tools cluster feedback according to its source, whether it comes from direct reports, peers, customers, etc. Take note of what level the feedback is coming from. "In some ways, it is even more important to be responsive to what you hear from those lower in the hierarchy," says Tiedens. "Subordinates took a bigger risk in raising these issues and have fewer avenues to discuss them with you, which suggests that these things are really bugging them and may mean they are even more confident of their views."
Commit to change
Talk with your manager or team
How to handle outliers
Principles to Remember
Case Study #1: Deciding when not to react
The feedback report was primarily positive but included some useful areas of development around building a more commercial approach and developing a stronger team. The review also included some harsh feedback about Aimee as a person, indicating that some of her reviewers thought she had an irritating style. The coach noted that this was something he heard from a very small number of people. Aimee was taken aback as these were criticisms she hadn't heard before. "It just wasn't aligned with my sense of who I am," she said. She was upset but rather than reacting right away, she took the time to reflect on it and consulted a more senior partner who had given her some frank, career-changing advice in the past. He agreed that the feedback didn't resonate and asked her to think about whether there was any truth in it. If there wasn't, he advised her to let it go. "Feedback sometimes is a gift that comes with a gift receipt," he said.
Not responding was hard for Aimee. "I believe in feedback and I believed in this process," she said. Ultimately, she chose to work on the things in the report that had ringed true for her.
*Name has been changed
Case Study #2: Listening to your team
The results of Torrey's CCS surprised him. His soldiers indicated that they thought he was unapproachable and was too busy speaking with Iraqi mayors and sheiks to spend enough time with them. This negative feedback was especially difficult for Torrey. "One of the strengths I thought I had, because I came up through the ranks, was being approachable, easy to talk to, and down to earth," he said.
While his initial reaction was shock and disbelief, when he read the comments, he understood more about what was going on. Every day Torrey and his men went out on patrol so that Torrey could meet with an Iraqi official about rebuilding the country. His team would wait outside, patrolling the area to keep Torrey and themselves safe. When the meeting was done, Torrey would hop back in the Humvee and say, "Ok, let's get going," and they'd head back to base. He rushed them back because he wanted to keep his soldiers safe and give them as much time off as possible. The sooner they got back to base, the sooner his team could eat, call their families, etc. But it turned out that they wanted to know what had happened in Torrey's meetings and why they had to wait in the hot sun all day. "From their perspective, I hadn't done a good job of explaining what it was I was doing and why," he said. "I realized that I was so task-oriented and mission-focused that I was ignoring the very people who were helping me achieve the mission."
After taking in the feedback, Torrey sat the team down and shared what he had heard. He explained that while it had not been intentional, he now knew that his behavior was having a negative impact on them. Starting then, at the end of each patrol, Torrey committed to debriefing his team (not just his supervisor) on the meeting and how it went. He also made a concerted effort to spend more casual time with his soldiers. Three months later, Torrey did another CCS and the difference was drastic. His team clearly appreciated what he had changed and they now felt included in the mission.
About: Contributing editor at Harvard Business Review