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Anonymous Feedback Tools: Boon or Bane?

A while back, a NY Times article excoriated Amazon for its business practices, opening an important conversation on the use of anonymous feedback tools.  Is this type of feedback useful? Does it achieve its purpose or does it serve to undercut the person being evaluated?  

Many organizations and OD practitioners rely on these kinds of tools to help individuals gain insights about their blind spots.  Like all tools, they must be properly employed.  Most 360 assessments come with the caveat that they are to be used for “development purposes” only.  Marshall Goldsmith, in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, states that when providing feedback, anonymously or not, the receiver is much more likely to use the information when it focuses on what that person can do better or improve on, rather than what s/he is doing wrong.  Most people are eager to see how they can improve.  When told what they did wrong, they are likely to defend themselves rather than internalize the message.

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Lauren Weber and Rachel Emma Silverman, “Peer feedback, delivered via internal social networks, forms or short surveys, is part of a bigger workplace shift as employers like General Electric Co., Accenture and Deloitte drop annual performance reviews in favor of constant, instant assessments for staff.”   

What do you think?  How should these tools be used?  What are the consequences good or bad when they are implemented?  How do they affect overall organizational performance?


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