Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment
About 8 months ago I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very generic way and shuffled papers nervously. Then, he said it: "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."
Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."
These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.
If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:
Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship workers at all levels rely upon when making decisions about what to do and how to do it (If that is a new notion to you, start with a look into Wally Bock's archives, especially a solid post about Managers and Developing Talent).
Deal With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching
If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.
What to do?
I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them; otherwise, the the coaching would be (rightly) viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.
The result? Each one actually agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.
So the first coaching session was with the boss to identify the specific feedback and practice giving it. And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.
What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.