360° feedback: a critical enquiry

Arthur Morgan (University of Glamorgan Business School, Pontypridd, UK)
Kath Cannan (University of Glamorgan Business School, Pontypridd, UK)
Joanne Cullinane (University of Greenwich Business School, Greenwich, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The underpinning assumption in the adoption of 360° feedback is that it heightens an individual's self‐awareness by highlighting differences between how participants see themselves and how others see them. This statement implies that awareness motivates development and improves performance. This paper critically examines the introduction of 360° feedback in the civil service, drawing on the experiences of the Patent Office and taking account of the wider context of civil service modernisation.


The case study gathered data through a series of interviews and questionnaires. It sought the perceptions and experiences of management and participants in relation to the implementation process and the outcomes of the scheme.


At an organisational level the use of 360° feedback, as a performance management tool, failed to develop the self‐awareness anticipated. Neither was it found to be aligned with other development plans or the organisation's core competencies. At an individual level some participants believed that they achieved little from the process overall and this may be related to an expectation that the organisation's HRM system would be more proactive in planning development action on their behalf.

Practical implications

This research reflects the situation in one organisation. It is argued that the findings will have relevance for the wider civil service as the agenda for organisational efficiency, target setting, and performance improvement gathers momentum.


This paper takes a critical perspective on whether HR developments such as 360° feedback have a deep‐seated strategic rationale. It also explores the relationship between 360° feedback and the new public management.



Morgan, A., Cannan, K. and Cullinane, J. (2005), "360° feedback: a critical enquiry", Personnel Review, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 663-680. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483480510623457

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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