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Your company does 360 reviews. They're anonymous. David replaced all the charts in your project report with photos of cats back in March and now you're being asked for feedback on his performance. What do you do? What do you do?!

360 or multi-rater reviews are all about gathering feedback on an individual’s performance from a range of sources: their manager, team members, clients, lunch table co-habitors. Anonymity in 360 reviews something of a fraught topic. We asked a bunch of people about it and what we found went a little like this.

Anonymous Is a Good Starting Point

Anonymous feedback is likely to be more honest (so possibly less complimentary) because if nobody knows who said what, there's no fear of repercussions. It’s a good stepping stone to completely open and honest reviews, helping to build trust in the process. Assuming people take it seriously.

So if David's been stealing your coffee mugs and impersonating you on the phone all year, your feedback can be brutally honest without fear of reprisal - especially important if David is actually your boss.

On the other hand, if there’s widely divergent feedback and no clues as to what came from whom, how can anyone decide which is ‘right’?

Attributed Feedback is Good for Development

Assuming you’re in a place of trust, you’re probably OK with receiving feedback from all corners - even if it’s a little less than glowing - because you know it’s going to help with your development.

Attributed feedback is unlikely to be malicious, and will probably be more useful when it comes to analysis (’consider the source’). If David gets 20 glowing reviews and one filled with dark mutterings from that one guy who's always complaining about him, there's no big mystery to unravel and might not be any performance issue to resolve. Or not on David’s end at least.

Annual 360 Reviews?  Still Not Quite Right

There’s still something fundamentally broken about most 360 reviews. It’s really the same complaint leveled at old-school reviews in general - if it’s a yearly process then it’s detached from context and delivered out of time. 

360 reviews (particularly anonymous) run the risk of being seen as the organizational equivalent of writing passive-aggressive notes and leaving them stuck to someone’s monitor rather than actually talking to them. Don’t be those guys.

Get Up and Talk!

If you have something to say to someone (good or bad), say it then and there, to their face. Chances are you’re an adult working with adults, so the give and take on this shouldn’t be too painful. As with all reviews, surprises in 360 feedback mean you’re doing it wrong.

In this case, revenge is a dish best served piping hot.

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