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7 Aug 2017

360 Review as Biased Bully Destroying Diversity in the Workplace

The 360 review is the most dangerous performance feedback tool commonly used today. In short, it’s formalized peer pressure. It enforces group norms. It offers no protection for diversity.

Two main arguments drive this conclusion. One is analytical. The other psychological.

Analytical Argument Against the 360 Review

Imagine polling people on their views of a candidate. However, the poll does not select people randomly. It only looks at people from one community. How representative would that sample be then?

The 360 review destroys diversity and enforces collective preferences.

Over the long run, the 360 review will encourage homogeneity and enforce group norms by ridding the group of outliers.

That is the 360 review. It pulls people from one organization to express their views of a single person. Moreover, people like to talk about other people. Groupthink easily forms about a person. Alpha personalities can drive that too. It’s why attorneys and judges tend to remove such people from juries. Ask a trial attorney.

For instance, take an average-height person. In a tall company, he’s too short. In a short one, too tall. This works for personality types too. A balanced person could be too extroverted or introverted. Culture drives it.

In short, analyzing the methodology of the 360 review finds no effort to ensure the sample represents diverse cultures and personalities. It’s a small sample. It pulls from an inbred culture. Thus in a very different culture one will very likely get a very different review.

Psychological Argument Against the 360 Review

Unconscious biases exist. Overcoming them is tough. Moreover, as unconscious bias has shown with gender and race, it can be inbred in a group’s culture. It holds true for personality types, generations and star employees too.

Furthermore, people have a hard time liking those who are different, who disagree. It’s so much easier to like those who are the same.

Thus psychologically, people rate those they like higher than those they don’t like. For instance, they are more likely to rate someone as efficient if they like her. This promotes sameness.

The Biased Bully Destroying Diversity

Groups move toward homogeneity. That’s their nature. They expel outliers, including star employees.

Teams must work hard to thwart this. The 360 review hurts this. It doesn’t screen reviewers at all. There are no checks on their biases, their projections onto others.  At least a boss went through some screening to be a boss.

While that might not be perfect either, at least it’s just a boss’ view, one view. The 360 review though formalizes and organizes groupthink. That’s social pressure. It’s weightier.

Yet, a whole group can be wrong. It can be dysfunctional.  Look at the greed that drove the finance industry. What would a 360 review say about a conscientious, altruistic employee there?

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