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Coaching and Multi-Source Feedback

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Multi-Source Assessment and Organizational Coaching

The employee is usually provided with ample information regarding the way in which his colleagues rate his performance, once the rating scales are completed and compiled. There are often twenty to thirty categories. Data are typically presented in graphic and statistical form with frequencies, means and standard deviations being offered. The employee’s own ratings are usually juxtaposed with ratings from the other feedback sources. Sometimes, the ratings are compared with ratings given to other employees in the organization. The ratings for an employee might even be compared to national norms if the feedback instrument was purchased from a major vendor.

Whether a Two Tier or Three Tier system is engaged, the major challenge is one of managing the complexity of data that must be analyzed. This complexity confronts both those who are administrating this system and those who are recipients of this feedback. There are important drawbacks to many 360° feedback processes. The reports that are prepared often produce information overload and may produce a sense of despair, perhaps because multi-source feedback is usually accompanied by very few follow-up services. The employee receives an impressive, highly creditable report filled with colorful charts and graphs. She is told how to make sense of these graphs and numbers—and is then left alone to navigate through the stormy sea this type of report can stir up. Recent research suggests that only forty percent of the multi-source feedback systems are linked to development programs specifically addressing the areas being assessed in the 360° feedback. Much of the bad press regarding 360° feedback processes is generated by this insensitive and often abusive policy of providing the feedback without any follow-up coaching or consulting services.

The qualities being assessed in a 360° feedback process should always be developable, whether this process is being used for personnel decisions or for development. A 360° feedback process can generate several additional psychological storms even if presented in a thoughtful and appreciative manner. That is why this feedback should always be complimented by intensive and extensive organizational coaching. First, the data from other people in the organization can disconfirm an employee’s sense of self. Substantial research suggests that there is usually greater concurrence in the ratings of peers, subordinates and superiors, than there is between the self-ratings of an employee and any one of these three groups of raters. Employees are likely to be surprised by the appraisals being offered by other people in their organization. The employees who are least effective and most likely to receive negative feedback are particularly vulnerable, for research studies indicate that these employees are likely to be most surprised by the feedback they receive. They are particularly inclined to over-rate their own performance.

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