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Understanding 360-degree Feedback – Part 1

Understanding 360-degree Feedback – Part 1

360-Degree Feedback is a process by which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. This is to help staff learn and develop through greater self-awareness. This series of articles will explore some of the hidden meanings behind 360 feedback ratings.

The Importance of Self-rating

The practice of self-rating is important because comparing self-belief with the thoughts of peers, reports and managers reveals far more than just meets the eye. Academic research shows that self-rating scores rarely correlate with the ratings of other groups. There is much more consensus between the ratings of managers, direct reports, and colleagues.

More than one scale point difference between the self-rating score and the scores of others are known as “blind spots” or “rising stars (hidden strengths)”. Blind spots refer to over-rating by the self-evaluator whilst rising star or hidden strengths refers to under-rating by the participant.

Self-rating and performance do not normally correlate (Mabey and West, 1982) and show a correlation of .00. At the other end of the scale, the highest correlated ratings are those of managers and actual future performance (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2003).

Self-rating is Not a Predictor of Performance

Those who consistently rate themselves higher than their reviewing groups tend to be the poorest performers in their job. Fleenor et al, (1996), noting that self-rating says little about a person’s effectiveness, concluded that over-raters are usually perceived as poor performers.

Further evidence shows that star performers rarely overrate themselves and, indeed, some research suggests that a high correlation with other rater groups indicates that those with high self-awareness are typically, high performers. Moreover, really star performers quite often tend to underestimate themselves in 360-degree feedback questionnaires.

A Predictor of De-railers

Interestingly, consistent overrating is often a predictor of career de-railers (Shipper and Dillard, 2000). Such individuals often fail to learn from leadership development training and have, quite simply, too high a view of their own performance. Often this is most pronounced when managers rate much lower than the participant. Indeed, the presence of blind spots is much more problematic than hidden strengths because consistent self-overrating generally indicates a lack of self-awareness and, possibly, the presence of arrogance.

Conversely, self under-raters are far more likely to bounce back from impending or actual career de-railers.


Self-rating is not a predictor of performance or future promotion. However, it does accurately identify whether or not the individual has a high level of self-awareness, a precursor to personal development.  The value of self-rating is, therefore, about whether we know ourselves when rating our own performance.

Evidence suggests that overrating decreases with repeated 360-degree feedback exercises as the focus’s self-awareness rises.  And it, therefore, follows that consistent overrating is strongly indicative of a non-learner.

To find out more about our 360 approach and tools simply contact me by clicking here.

Matthew Davis

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