360-degree feedback (also called multicource feedback) collects ratings from subordinates, peers, supervisors, internal customers, or some combination. In some organizations, just upward (subordinate) ratings are gathered. The ratings may be collected by paper-and-pencil questionnaire, computer, or telephone system. The survey may be administered annually, semi-annually, or quarterly. The results may be fed back to the managers in a variety of ways: in a written (computerized) report sent to the manager, during a workshop that explains how to use the report, or in a one-to-one session with an external coach.
The benefits of 360-degree feedback are that it contributes to individual development by providing information on worthwhile directions for learning and growth while it promotes organizational development by specifying dimensions of leadership behavior that are important in the organization. Also, it clarifies management's performance expectations recognizing the complexity of managerial performance—that leaders and managers need input from these different sources for a comprehensive view of their performance.
Sometimes the feedback is used solely for the development of the manager, and the results are not provided to the supervisor or others in the organization. That is, the intention is for managers to use the results to understand themselves better and consider areas for development and performance improvement. Other times, the results are used both for development and administration—that is, in addition to encouraging managers to consider the implications of the results for their development, their supervisors are given the results to help make decisions about the managers (e.g., whether a manager is ready for promotion or a pay raise). This is more threatening, of course. Also, when raters know the information may be used to make decisions about the manager they are rating, they may be more lenient (London, Wohlers, &. Gallagher, 1990).