360 and Upward Assessment Surveys, My View From the Bottom of a Corporation

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal on December 8, 2011, by Joann Lublin entitled, “Transparency Pays Off in 360 degree reviews.” I have a particular view of these corporate surveys. From time to time in most big corporations these surveys included first line managers. I sent Ms. Lublin an email with my view of these management surveys. She asked me to place my comments on her article. I did.

After an assessment survey on me by my management, I did a survey on my employees. My employees are non-exempt dispatchers who work each day with an operator supervisor. The dispatchers report to me but the operators supervise them during the day. I wanted to get feedback on how the dispatchers were performing. I developed a survey on their attitudes and how they do the functions of their jobs. This did not go over well.

Here is my comment on Ms. Lublin’s article:

“I developed a 360 for the non-exempt members of my team. Each supervisor that interfaced with them rated each employee on how they do certain processes and their attitude about certain behavior goals of our team.

My supervisor had to promise my employees I would not do this again. After the uproar my employees raised. Some actually cried at their results.

I think everyone in an organization needs the 360 input. I do see 360’s as a coward’s method of letting powerful executives know what they are afraid to tell them in person. I read a Harvard Review article several years ago about a plant management team that was fired because of the 360 on them was bad. Then when the corporation evaluated the new team they got similar results. They then realized that it was the plant employees that had the bad attitude.

In an organization where employees have a fear of speaking truth to power the organization is in trouble with or without 360’s.

I have to admit I take my 360 seriously.”

End of comment.

First line employees rate their first line managers. These employees are not individual professional contributors or supervisors. What I mean is that managers that manage professionals and other supervisors get thrown in to the mix with us. Most corporations do not break out first line managers in the performance matrix measurement evaluation. I think this places first line managers at a disadvantage. The employees of first line managers do not buy in to the corporate philosophy the same as other corporate employees. I know this because of my years of experience work with teams on the first line.

I know most front line employees realize that most times because of their education or of where they start in the corporation they will never be in management. This is why they think differently about the corporation. First line managers have to manage these employees in all kinds of ways. Some of these ways are negative to the employees.

In my experience I have hired all the employees for a new department and taken over existing departments. Existing departments present a different management issue. The previous manager was either retired, quit, or fired. The employees in that department must now understand your standards and management style.

The Stafford Hotel in Tuscaloosa started business in 1956. In 1971 i became the restaurant manager. The employees worked there for years. These employees see managers come and go. I was 24, and I would not be there for long. Now what did I do. The first few months we did not meet our goals. The chef’s attitude and performance must improve. I called him to a meeting with me and the hotel manager. I placed him on probation; if we did not make our goals in the coming month he would be fired. This was a turn around, we made our goal each month after that. Point is what kind of 360 responses could I expect from Chef Robert.

I started work at an office where the previous manager retired years before he left the premise. I came into the office the first day. I review the work for each employee, read my emails, and prepare to meet the employees. Our office opens at 8:15 am, but the employees report by 8:00 am. At 8:00, no employees. I go to the back door and wait. Each employee comes shortly before 8:15. I wait until each employee sets up for the day. Then I go to the front of the office and announce we start work at 8:00am daily. This is just the beginning of the changes that came to the office. These employees answer to the questions on a 360 survey never occur to me. Their performance must improve.

A first line manager’s obligations to their organization are unique. We are on the front line where decisions affect daily operations. We do not sometimes take the time; nor, have the time to consider our survey results in all our decisions with employees. I feel corporations should measure first line managers differently than middle managers and executives in these surveys.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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