How office politics can affect 360 degree feedback results

As a HR professional, if you are already aware of fractured relationships in your business, it may be pertinent to think twice about starting on the 360 degree feedback journey. Despite appearances, the 360 degree feedback process isn’t an automatic problem solver; in fact it can sometimes make difficult situations even worse when done poorly.

In many ways 360 degree feedback can act as a catalyst to show what is really going on; either in public or below the surface. It may be in your best interest to consider solving some of the more apparent issues before starting 360 degree feedback, especially in smaller organisations where the possibility of moving warring employees between teams or shifting their bosses is impossible.

 When collecting reviewer feedback you may find that ratings clearly reflect the levels of distrust and anger lurking at the core of your company. Although all data is to some extent biased – simply because it is based on the subjective nature of opinion – it is even harder for reviewers to offer a measured and thoughtful response when they are harbouring resentment.

Read more: 10 biggest myths and misconceptions about 360 degree feedback

If you’re aware of issues but ready to take the plunge into 360 degree feedback, here’s our advice for navigating office politics and ensuring the most favourable outcomes for transformational change:

+ Decide on the purpose of your 360 degree feedback process

Are you monitoring performance or forging ahead towards development and transformation? If the former, a 360 degree feedback survey could help to pinpoint the woes that are causing inter-personal issues and help you address them. If you’re aiming for the latter, office politics could taint your data to such an extent that true transformation is scuppered.

Read more: The body language signs to look out for in 360 degree feedback appraisals

+ Build a sense of trust from the outset

Make it clear that the data given by reviewers is anonymous and taken seriously – have these conversations early on to avoid reviewers clamming up or presuming that the feedback process is a ploy by management.

+ Support those giving feedback about their managers or superiors

This can often by quite stressful, especially if relationships are strained. Ensure all those involved that management are invested in a process of change and transformation and that everyone’s opinions will be given equal weight with 360 feedback.

Read more: How to spot a good and bad 360 degree feedback survey

+ Look ahead to the ‘let’s sort this now’ response

In getting feedback parties may want to sort out grievances as quickly as possible – spurred on by what’s written in black and white in front of them. Pre-empt this kind of response by prepping for mediation meetings, rather than letting the parties fight it out amongst themselves.

Having considered all this, it is also worth looking out for key feedback indicators that shine a light on poor relationships. Here are some areas you can easily observe:


  1. Broken promises – people who feel let down by their colleague or manager will often let this taint their ratings. Look out for telling responses to questions on delivery of tasks, support or promises.


  1. Wanting to be liked – some reviewers may be suspiciously positive across their feedback, perhaps indicating that they don’t trust the anonymity of their results or the individual they are rating.


  1. Negativity – Self-ratings can also reveal an individual’s depression, anxiety or concern about their own performance. This could be a factor in how they are viewed by others, for example they are seen as quiet or reserved.


Office politics can be carefully mastered with a 360 degree feedback process and coaching, but a poorly devised system can also make things worse. Start slowly, analyse the risks and proceed with caution to achieve the best results.

For more on this and other incredibly powerful insights and advice, get your copy of 360 Feedback : A Transformational Approach today.


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