The 360 review can be a valuable assessment tool, as it relies on anonymous feedback from interviews with an employee’s direct reports, peers, superiors and customers. But the anonymity that allows people to be candid about the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues or managers can come at a cost, says executive coach Ed Batista in a recent blog posting.

  • Critiques become criticism. A constructive critique focuses on specific behaviors that need to be addressed by the employee being assessed: “Chris is getting into repeated conflicts with other members of the exec team over seemingly minor issues.” But much anonymous feedback instead becomes criticism, Batista says: “Chris is an abrasive person who lacks people skills and a domineering personality who has to win every argument.” Such feedback is targeted at the person rather than the behavior, often leaving the recipient hurt and defensive.
  • A tendency to blame and a failure to take responsibility. When tasked with assessing leaders, Batista says employees will often place full blame for any organizational problems on the leader’s shoulders, with no consideration for the group dynamic, company culture or their own contributions to the situation.
  • Necessary skills go undeveloped. The ability to have difficult conversations with just the right amount of assertiveness and minimal defensiveness is an important business skill, says Batista—and one that improves with practice, such as delivering or hearing negative feedback in person rather than through an anonymous process.

See Batista’s full blog posting, “The Problem with Anonymous Feedback.”