A 360-degree feedback (also known as multi-rater feedback, multi source feedback, or multi source assessment) is a process through which feedback from an employee’s subordinates, colleagues, and supervisor(s), as well as a self-evaluation by the employee themselves is gathered. Such feedback can also include, when relevant, feedback from external sources who interact with the employee, such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. 360-degree feedback is so named because it solicits feedback regarding an employee’s behavior from a variety of points of view (subordinate, lateral, and supervisory). It therefore may be contrasted with “downward feedback” (traditional feedback on work behavior and performance delivered to subordinates by supervisory or management employees only; see traditional performance appraisal), or “upward feedback” delivered to supervisory or management employees by subordinates only.
Organizations have most commonly utilized 360-degree feedback for developmental purposes, providing it to employees to assist them in developing work skills and behaviors. However, organizations are increasingly using 360-degree feedback in performance evaluations and employment decisions (e.g., pay; promotions). When 360-degree feedback is used for performance evaluation purposes, it is sometimes called a “360-degree review”.
There is a great deal of debate as to whether 360-degree feedback should be used exclusively for development purposes or for evaluation purposes as well. This is due primarily to feedback providers’ subjectivity and motivations, inter-rater variations, and whether feedback providers have the ability to fairly evaluate attainment of work and organizational objectives. While these issues exist when 360-degree feedback is used for development, they are more prominent when employers use them for performance evaluation purposes, as they can unfairly influence employment decisions, and even lead to legal liability.