Sometimes it’s my job to help individuals get the best from their 360 feedback reports. Usually it’s a complete pleasure, but every now and then you get someone like Joy who isn’t a Joy!
I was asked to facilitate feedback meetings in an engineering company. Joy managed a small admin team, and took part in a 360 programme ahead of a management development programme she was due to attend. When sorting out appointments, I was surprised to be told that Joy might not attend, as there was a possibility that she would be sacked.
They say a picture paints a thousand words… one look at the spidergram at the front of Joy’s report told me a lot. Joy had scored herself as outstanding across the board. Without exception, all her team had rated her as poor. Her boss wasn’t that impressed with her either. Part of my role is to help people get past their initial emotional response and make sense of the report. Usually if there are negative emotions displayed, it is because people find it initially hard to come to terms with perceived criticism. This wasn’t the case with Joy.
Joy breezed into the room and seemed oblivious to the fact that she may have some harsh realities to face. As I explained how we would work together, she gave every appearance of being a confident – possibly even arrogant – manager. We began to look at the report, and her defences rose. What followed was a tirade about how it was everyone’s else’s fault, it wasn’t true, they had ganged up against her and lied… you get the drift. It sounded more like playground name calling than professionalism.
I gently but firmly tried to get Joy to focus on her own behaviour, to look for triggers that may have contributed to her colleagues’ views. This was no easy task, as she pretty much remained adamant that she was without blame. I’ve discovered, over the years, that when folk appear intransigent, they are having an internal conflict and aren’t revealing the full story. I guess it’s the innate ‘fight or flight’ impulse – Joy came out fighting.
There is actually a happy ending. Despite Joy’s protestations, she must have given thought to the issues, which were now out in the open. She tackled the conflict with her team, completed the management development programme – and then got promoted, taking a bigger role on a larger site. It’s hard to tell how much of the change in Joy was due to the 360 report exposing the issues in a very overt way, but one thing is for sure – people can surprise you!
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace