By Colleen McLintock

As businesses continue to prioritise employee development and growth, 360 feedback has become a popular tool to help individuals gain a better understanding of their performance. However, the question of whether to provide individuals with their 360 reports before the feedback session has been a topic of debate.

On the surface, it may seem like providing individuals with their report beforehand can give them more time to digest the contents and have a more focused conversation during the review meeting. However, there are a few potential drawbacks to this approach that should be considered.

1.  Misinterpretation of Information

The biggest risk of providing individuals with their 360 report before the feedback session is that they may misinterpret the information without the facilitated conversation. This is especially true if the feedback is challenging. It would be comparable to a Pathology Lab providing blood test results directly to the patient. A layperson can read the ranges set out on the lab report, but the interpretation needs to happen by a professional. This is why having a psychologist in the room to ensure the results are delivered ethically and accurately is critical.

2.  Narrow Focus

If an individual spends too much time preparing for the review, they may become fixated on specific areas and miss other important feedback during the feedback session. Depending on the individual’s personality, they may not be open to discussing other critical aspects of their performance.

3.  Emotional Reaction

Individuals may become defensive or upset after reading the review on their own, which could hinder their ability to accept constructive feedback and make meaningful changes. In this case, they may be unable to approach the conversation with an open mind.

4.  Scripted Responses

Sharing the review beforehand could also cause the conversation to become less spontaneous and authentic. If individuals come prepared with scripted responses, the conversation may lack the necessary back-and-forth exchange that allows for a deeper understanding of their performance.

5.  Lack of Nuance

The facilitator is responsible for ensuring the feedback is delivered in a way that is sensitive and nuanced, taking into account an individual’s emotional intelligence and self-awareness. However, if the report is delivered beforehand, there is no control over how it is received, potentially impacting individuals negatively.

6.  Violation of Guidelines

While it is technically permitted to share the report beforehand under the current HPCSA guidelines, doing so may violate the spirit of these guidelines. Sharing similar reports without a feedback session first is prohibited for the reasons mentioned above. In previous experiments, those who received the report beforehand tended to overreact to the feedback.

In conclusion, providing individuals with their 360 report before the feedback session may seem like a good idea, but it can have several potential drawbacks that should be considered. Instead, it is recommended to provide the report during the feedback session to ensure that the information is delivered ethically and accurately, and individuals have the necessary support to interpret and accept the feedback in a constructive manner.

Photo by  Giulia May