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Organizational Behavior: 360 Degree Feedback

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Organizational Behavior: 360 Degree Feedback

OB meets OD and HR Essay: 360 Degree Feedback

Have you often wondered whether you should continue to do something at your job, stop, or try new ways of doing things? Job performance techniques used in organizational behavior are ways to help employees answer these questions to improve the organization's overall success. The Human Resources (HR) department uses techniques to understand, monitor, and evaluate an employee's behavior and attitude in order to facilitate the company's productivity. Organizational behavior (OB) is a field of study devoted to understanding, explaining, and ultimately improving the attitudes and behaviors of individuals and groups in organizations. In order to apply OB science in real life, the 360 Degree Feedback is a favorite technique that Melinda Olsweng, an HR Executive at AT&T uses to collect job performance information. Although 360 Degree Feedback proves to be successful at AT&T and many other companies, the method also raises some potential problems.

Melinda Olsweng has worked with AT& T, one the largest communications company for about eight years. The company is the leading U.S. provider of wireless, high speed internet, and voice services. The 360 Degree Feedback method has been a successful organizational behavior technique at AT&T because it makes sure an employee's job performance meets the company's goals. 360 Degree Feedback is a system in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. As shown in diagram 1 , this typically includes the employee themselves, manager, peers, and even customers.

Diagram 1: 360 degree feedback

First, the employees fill out an anonymous survey that asks questions about their manager and peer's behavior, attitude, performance, etc. The survey includes questions that are measured on a rating scale. Employees are also asked to provide additional written comments. Finally, the employees must rate their own performance. The ratings are then combined, evaluated, and revealed to the recipients as shown below in diagram 2 .

Diagram 2: Group Analysis

Every year, Olsweng sends out an email inviting all employees at AT&T to participate in the survey feedback. In addition, she provides a deadline to complete the survey, reminders, and one-on-one debriefing. 360 degree feedback is her favorite technique because it boosts the company's productivity by giving employees a more accurate sense of their personal strengths and weaknesses. "It's a wonderful sanity check for me," says Olsweng, "our company invests a lot in our employees so I want to make sure where everyone stands and identify areas for improvement." Once surveys are completed, Olsweng interprets the results face-to-face with the employees so that they can understand the feedback. Olsweng believes the 360 degree feedback has been successful to the company because it promotes team cohesiveness since employees are more likely to meet the expectations of their coworkers and managers when they know that their peers will be rating them.

An article in the Journal of Management Development describes a study done at the University of Australia supporting the 360 degree feedback. Eight mixed-gendered staff and professionals were selected to complete a feedback survey. The research study found from the group undertaking the 360 degree feedback that, "in equal proportion, participants reported receiving no surprising feedback but reinforcement and affirmation, and new insights, with developmental strategies identified to effect change as a result of feedback." The participants saw the exercise as an opportunity to improve their performance by changing, improving, or continuing items suggested in the survey. However, the study argues that in order for 360 degree feedback to be completely successful, you must pair it with a rewarding system because "survey participants may take their survey results on behaviors more seriously if they perceive the relevant behaviors to be valued." 5 Glenys 586. This can contribute to employee motivation and also relates to the concept of "self-efficacy" discussed in class in which an individual believes that he or she is able to effect behavioral change. Similar to self-confidence, if employees feel more self-efficacy towards

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