I was once asked about performing a 360 assessment on an individual who was “having problems.”
This is a good reason NOT to do one – at least, not without more information on the situation.
Upon further questioning, it turned out that the organization had made a mistake in promoting this individual, who was now struggling in a supervisory role for which he was ill-suited mainly because he lacked the skills for it (which was all too obvious to the people he was trying to manage). Compounding the situation was the fact that he was originally from a foreign country and didn’t have the nuances of English necessary to be effective in his new position. As an individual contributor in the field for which he had trained he would be a valuable asset to the company, and an effort was being initiated to move him into such a position.
The bottom line is that assessments – particularly 360’s – should not be used as a substitute for good performance management or a means of trying to rectify errors in judgment. If an employee needs corrective feedback and isn’t getting it, it isn’t just the employee who needs to be held accountable, it’s their manager as well. Assessments are developmental tools, meant to be used to provide feedback to help those who are a fit (and who have the skill and the will) for the positions they hold to determine where to apply their efforts to increase effectiveness. They can be diagnostic tools as well, but only within the context of talent management and/or career development. The last thing we want to do with a 360 is inadvertently use it as a weapon, or apply it in situations where it isn’t called for or will do more harm than good. When in doubt, don’t.