I’d suggest that the right answer is, it depends – on the organization’s culture, on how the 360 is positioned, on how bought in senior leadership is on the use of the tool, and indeed, what the organization’s expectations are after the 360 is completed.
I’ve had nothing but positive experiences using 360’s and I’ve administered and debriefed hundreds of them. However, I’ve been fortunate to work with senior leaders who have been assessed themselves and believe in the value of the 360, and we also never use the tool without a commitment on the part of those being rated that they will craft and implement a developmental plan based on the feedback they receive. In situations where we’ve assessed a team (and its leader) or group of peers (and their manager), we do a group session on interpreting the scoring and we get people to begin sharing their results with each other at that session. Then each person is responsible for sharing their results with their manager and with the people who rated them, and reporting out on progress on their developmental plan once a month at their regularly scheduled staff or team meeting. When handled like this, the 360 creates camaraderie and will foster a sense of team in a work group. People realize that everyone has things they need to work on and no one’s perfect, and they’re encouraged to support one another as they work on their developmental areas.
The 360’s we use separate the self score and the management score out on each item so that fruitful discussions can take place between the person and their manager on any glaring discrepancies in their scores. When handled properly on the part of both participants, this opens the lines of communication and becomes another avenue for the frank exchange of feedback apart from the performance review.
Properly positioned and championed within the organization, a 360 will enhance the leader/direct report relationship as long as senior leadership is bought in and expectations are made clear regarding the tool and its use.