The 5 personality types you will meet in 360 degree feedback sessions and how to work with them

No matter how useful it would be for HR professionals, there’s no one-size-fits-all response to 360 degree feedback data. Some respondents may be engaged, positive and ready to take on feedback for personal development, whereas others may be angry, resentful or playing the blame game to save face.

Of course, you can predict with some certainty that negative comments will cause upset, but you may be surprised what niggling bit of data can cause the most significant of reactions. To get the most out of each feedback session, you may want to prepare yourself for some typical personality types you’ll encounter. Remember, your aim is to ensure each recipient can take full responsibility for their data and their role in the wider workplace – understanding how their minds are working in the moment could make this path easier to travel.

Character One: In denial, blames others and feels resentful of the 360 degree feedback process

A feedback recipient may choose to deny any negative attributes that crop up in their data, or blame others for any performance issues that are indicated. They may get equally angry at the 360 process itself, arguing that their company should never have subjected them to it. Of course, this is likely to mask a hurt pride, so your aim should be to find out what elements of the feedback are causing this sense of upset and embarrassment. By singling out some key contentious issues – and explaining that the individual can now prove others wrong by developing on them – you may be able to encourage positive change while playing to the bruised ego.

Character Two: Reacts strongly to criticism and gets emotionally upset

This personality type can seem like the most challenging because of the outpouring of emotion; especially if the person is visibly upset or crying. This type of visceral reaction can lead the recipient to feel like they’re helplessly caught up – unable to see a way out of the situation. Find out what has upset the individual through deep listening techniques and questioning, and encourage them to see their data in a broader perspective. It is likely that the individual will also feel embarrassed by their level of upset in the workplace, so remind them that their reaction is within the normal realms and offer them plenty of time to process their thoughts before propping for answers.

Character Three: Responds to good and bad feedback and begins to formulate ways he or she can change

This confident, self-assured character type may seem like a dream at first glance, but don’t take their willingness to push ahead as a sign of being okay. Perhaps they are trying to rush to the end of the feedback session as a type of flight or flight response, or perhaps they’re unsure what their data really means. Do any aspects of the feedback surprise them? Is there a reason why they’re so happy to accept negative aspects of their feedback – were they expecting this? This is where your own planning will prove useful; especially when it comes to comparing the respondents own self-review with the data of others. If they view themselves negatively, for example, good feedback may be a pleasant surprise.

Character Four: Understands the feedback but questions its purpose or validity

 This person is happy to discuss the feedback with you, but shows a keen sense of distrust and disdain for the feedback itself. They may complain about the process, lack of briefing, errors with reporting, confusion about reviewers, frustration about their boss not completing. They may say they did not want to participate at all or that they were not sure it was going to be at all helpful. Whatever they choose to tell you, listen and offer reminders of the purpose and professionalism behind the process. Finally, reassert the privacy and anonymity of the process, highlighting that this is for their benefit and not designed to ‘catch them out’.

Character Five: Understand the feedback, ready to change but nervous of repercussions, embarrassment or privacy

This type of individual may be uncomfortable with their own feedback but also with having given feedback. Perhaps they have ‘reviewers regret’ and are now viewing their own data in the light of their own feedback contributions. This recipient may be hesitant about going back to work for fear of embarrassment, so you will need to use your skills to unpick their concerns and instil confidence. Remind them of the purpose of the process and its long term goals of growth and professional development – you don’t want them sinking into the same defeatist mind-set of characters one and four.

Remember, some people may leave you appearing happy and contented, but could be back a few days later struggling to cope with their feedback. It is your job as a HR professional to unpick the upsets of each recipient and find out how they can be supported on their route to transformational change.


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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