To tell the truth

Be frank, but constructive, on 360-degree appraisals

The tables have finally turned. You’ve been asked to rate your boss performance in a 360degree evaluation and you raise your pen, poised for retaliation. But before delivering that coup de grace, consider this: being constructive, not destructive, may create a whole new boss for the liking.

Over the past decade, more companies have embraced 360-degree evaluations, which allow employees to evaluate their own performance while receiving feedback from direct managers, peers, subordinates and those in other departments.

“These evaluations are designed to help the employee develop and advance professionally,” says Jean Martin, president of VJM Associates, an organizational development consulting firm in Jersey City, New Jersey. “But they’re also confrontational and force the person being evaluated to take a hard look at how their behavior is perceived.” To ensure that your feedback is constructive, Martin offers these tips:

  • It’s not personal. Make your evaluation concise, professional and directly linked to your superior’s work performance. Also, stick to the time frame in question– don’t rehash incidents of days gone by.
  • Word it right. Say it nicely. “Ed needs to be more of a team player on projects” is better than “he just doesn’t get along with anybody.” Or, “Ellen can benefit from enhancing her interpersonal style” rather than “she always has an attitude.”
  • Shh! These evaluations are anonymous and confidential, so avoid referring to specific incidents that will link you to your responses. This isn’t “water cooler” discussion, and sharing your answers will relinquish your anonymity.
  • What do you do if confronted? Simply remind your boss that the evaluation is confidential, and suggest that he or she focus on the total feedback and not individual responses. “This isn’t a gripe session,” adds Martin. “Being an evaluator should make you assess your own behavior. Who knows? One day, you too might be on the receiving end.”
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