SARA – Shock, Anger, Resistance, Acceptance

Let’s talk about 360 degree feedback processes. Some most forms of assessment, 360 degree feedback has its enthuiasts and its detractors.

Over the past ten years our consultancy has used 360 degree in various formats. We are accredited to apply the Australian Public Sector Leadership 360 feedback process and have used this on occassions when a formal review is required by a client. On other occassions we have used a more informal, in-house feedback process we have developed over the years.

Regardless of which form of 360 degree feedback is used, there are advantages to using this type of process and there are processes that need to be considered if use is to be effective.

The term 360 degree means feedback is sought from people above, equal to and below the person receiving the feedback. Therein can lie the first issue. Does the organisation have sufficient depth of employees to enable this to occur with privacy and relative anonymity? This may not be an issue if only one person is being provided with feedback; it can become a greater issue if there are multiple people receiving feedback.

The key advantage of the 360 process, or any other form of written feedback is that it takes things out of conceptual mode and places the observations of others into black and white. It is very difficult to argue with something that is written down, especially when evidence is provided for corroboration; or when there is a clear trend from multiple sources of feedback.

Then there is what to do with the information recieved during feedback. The 360 degree process is comprehensive and can generate significant amounts of data about a person. This data is often compiled into some form of written report. It can take some time to read, assimilate and move towards action. This process requires skilled facilitation and mentoring. Do your managers have this experience and skills? Can they guide junior managers through this process in a empathetic manner, where the goal is personal growth?

When people receive feedback they generally move through four distinct stages – Shock, Anger, Resistance and Acceptance. Very few people accept everything that is said about them at first glance. This is because most of us see things through our ‘i’m good because noone says otherwise’ lens. When someone does tell us what they see, our first reaction is shock, followed closely by anger and sometimes denial.

It takes time to work through these stages with each individual receiving feedback. It is a story telling process, it is a process of challenging assumptions as that person is coached through the process of talking about how they feel and what they are thinking and then exploring how those thoughts are influencing their behaviour.

Eventually this leads to acceptance – at this point some action can take place. Many managers when providing mentoring or coaching to a subordinate, regardless of the feedback process want to jump straight from feedback to action. This is irresponsible. Each individual moves through these stages in their own time.

This serves to illustrate the importance of mentoring; a skill few managers actually have. Any 360 feedback process should include an exploration of how those receiving feedback will be provided with guidance.

Once acceptance has been reached it is time to shift into another gear. It is time for the person receiving feedback to take some personal responsibility for outcomes. It is time to set goals, action plans, a process for monitoring progress and providing feedback to their manager, mentor or coach etc.

Love em or hate em, as consultants our experiences are that the outcomes and benefits are more likely to be positive than negative. It is also our experience that management teams utilise 360 degree feedback less often than perhaps they could. A part of the reluctance might the cost and a part might be some of the issues discussed above.

Those are my thoughts for the day

Let The Journey Continue

John Coxon




About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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