In a recent conversation with a client, we covered the tricky topic of balancing the benefits of free text comments, with the risk of reviewer comments being identified.
Why anonymous text 360 feedback is important
The client had already run a number of 360’s for a number of participants using the Track 360 feedback. Although the client had run 360s before, this was with a new population. The amount of comments added to each 360 by the reviewers (i.e the feedback givers) was many more than before.
The client was happy at the level of comments as this would help to give context to the ratings. However, he was concerned that the reviewees might be able to work out who said what.
Our client suggested that it might be worth turning off the comments in the reports completely. They asked us for guidance and best practice in this area.
Of course, this is always a difficult balance: comments are helpful because they clarify the ratings. But they can be somewhat less anonymous than ratings alone. In our report format, the comments are anonymous (unless from a line manager). The report shows the comments in random order, which provides a level of anonymity for the reviewers.
However, reviewees can try to work out out who said what. This might be obvious from the style of the comment, or the examples given.
Recommendations for anonymous text 360 feedback
- Provide guidance in advance to reviewers, via their briefings and emails, as follows: “Important information: Is your feedback anonymous? Except for the two instances below, your feedback rating, comments and supporting examples will not be identifiable as coming from you. These appear anonymously in your colleague’s 360 Degree Feedback report. However, your feedback may be identifiable if a) you give specific examples or comments that your colleague will recognise as yours, or b) If you are a Line Manager, your feedback will be identifiable, which is in line with best practice.”
- In the reviewee briefings and the one to one sessions, clearly communicate to reviewees that they ask for feedback with an understanding that they do not pursue their colleagues afterwards, or put them under pressure for the feedback they have given.
- Another option is to request the Track 360 feedback system to produce two versions of the report. The first is a full report for the debriefer with comments. The second is another version for the reviewee, who will only see the ratings, not the text comments.It’s then up to the coach or debriefer to feed back the comments as appropriate to the reviewee. It’s a good way to get people used to using the 360 Degree Feedback concept and allows them to understand and exprience the benefits. Hopefully the next time they will then be prepared to focus on the trends and key messages of the 360 feedback, rather than individual or outlying comments.
Of course, it’s possible that the reviewee identifies some comments. The discussion with the debriefer is therefore really important. The debriefer can help the reviewee to understand and take the feedback on board
For more information on 360 feedback, please contact us.
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