How to propose another way to collect 360 feedback in a small company?

I work for a small company 102 employees spread across 5 different offices. I work at HQ in the People and Culture Department. There is only 3 of us in this Department, myself, my manager (the Director of People and Culture) and HR Generalist.
I’ve been asked to provide a 360 feedback on my manager.
It’s supposed to be ‘anonymous’ - however, with just two people reporting into the manager it’s not really ‘anonymous’ Furthermore, the person ‘compiling’ the information to then give to the manager is my coworker the HR Generalist.

I don’t feel comfortable with this setup.

How have you seen 360 feedback in People & Culture Departments work best? Especially on small teams? How or who would be right person to bring this up? How do we foster a good culture when it is so small?
Thank you!

Great question India.bastien.

I think it depends on the goal of the 360 feedback. I have worked in a number of small teams where 360 feedback was captured and used for development purposes only and in those cases it worked quite well.

In each case, a third party compiled the feedback and feedback was delivered not as a score but as an indication of how I perceived myself vs. how others perceived me.

So, I think it is less about the size of the team and more about the goal of the 360 and how the feedback is aggregated and delivered. It works best when 360s are done for development purposes only, the information is compiled using a third party, so some confidentiality can be maintained and the information is reported in a way that focus’ the individual on their strengths and opportunities for development without presenting scores. When scores are used it can often make individuals feel defensive and less inclined to take action.

You may also find this page with tips on giving valuable feedback helpful.

Your question about fostering a ‘good culture’ with a small team is also great. The most effective teams I have been a part of have a shared understanding of the organisation’s values and goals, and have developed a strong sense of psychological safety on the team. There is great research done by Google and others on the importance of psychological safety in teams. Here is a People Geek resource guide for team effectiveness that you might also find useful.

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Thank you so much, Josh, this was super useful! I am going to dig into those links you sent me! Especially find the psychological safety in teams - which I believe is my main feedback with this 360 feedback. I do not feel comfortable with this kind of dynamic and how feedback is being collected or the lack of anonymity since we seem to be struggling with communication. I am realizing I don’t know what the top challenges of the business objectives and how our department they impact them (can help with these). Moreover, how my work influences these objectives or goals from the business and the department. I have found myself not sharing collected feedback, information, or struggles since there is a lack of communication and continuous mistrust.
Thank you so much!

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Hi India,

Great question and I think that Josh’s response was great and there is a lot to learn from what he shared.

Here is an additional thought that I have shared with other small organizations, given confidentiality / anonymity are so hard in these types of environments.

Why not use the 360 template to host in-person conversations with the recipient. I know that this can be hard but in a smaller organization, open and honest communication are even more critical for success as you grow. By using the 360 as an opportunity to have a conversation based on your own opinion and following a template that is built with a focus on development this can be a powerful exercise. You could make this a company wide thing and even have a third person involved that can be there to provide facilitation support.

I realize that this can be challenging but if done right, it can really open up relationships and lines of communication, especially if everybody is involved.

Thanks for the question.

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I thought about that too Craig! I think my hesitation on the 360 and in person is tha my feedback is probably not something my boss wants to hear. I had a couple situations arise that have created mistrust, lack of communication, lack of transparency, or direct communication and have left me with not wanting to speak with my direct manager - really my disappointment, lack of moral, lack of guidance is all coming down to not feeling valued. It is hard to expose one self as well as face someone who already hasn’t been good about communicating in the first place.
However, there is something to be said about being creating a good bridge for development. I will think more on this and consider your approach though! Thank you so much for your response!

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India, I’ve struggled with a strong 360 policy in a small company as well. What I keep coming back to, however, is that the feedback of mistrust, miscommunication, the need for transparency, etc., is exactly what an effective manager should want to hear from their employee. So, rather than focusing on the anonymity issue, I am focusing my thoughts on how to structure the practice and delivery in a way that is supportive and constructive for the manager with the assurance to the employee that it will be carried out in a thoughtful and productive way.

In your case, if you’re worried about reception from your manager, perhaps looking at a structure that builds in a follow up and an action plan so you can figure out how to move forward with the feedback that you provide and affect the change that you would like to see.

Good luck, and thanks for the food for thought!

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I echo the thoughts that were shared around psychological safety. This is such a critical part of creating a culture where feedback and communication can be shared for the benefit of individuals and common goals.

I took part in a “stop, start, continue” session to give feedback to a former manager and although I thought it was well intentioned it felt more like a critique session about my manager not constructive. Hindsight, I think I would start with a chance for my manager to self-assess (which a traditional 360 does) and share her/his thoughts on self and then my job as a “respondent” would be to share where I agree/disagree and then use time together to dialogue to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what has been shared (identify the behaviors demonstrated, what would a successful behavior look like, the intent, the impact, alignment with values, etc.).

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