Linking personality to 360 Reviews

We spoke to Norman Buckley, developer of Big 5 personality assessment, Facet5.  Norman has been looking into the links between personality and 360 results.  He has been kind enough to share his findings with us in this article.

Norman has collected data from Facet5 questionnaires and Facet5's 360 engine, the Strategic Leadership Review (SLR) questionnaires, using a balanced sample, which was drawn from leadership programmes in a variety of countries and industries.

360s are a well established way of evaluating performance, particularly for development. Increasingly, they are also used for performance appraisal and promotion, therefore it becomes more important to understand what influences ratings.

Studies have shown that the 360 gives real performance improvements, over a 12-18 month period, so we can prove that they are popular and that they work, however they do raise some questions:

  • does viewpoint influence ratings?  
  • is there a relationship between personality and leadership ratings?

Does viewpoint influence ratings?

The collected data showed that people rate their own performance more favourably than do their line managers and peers and in most areas their Direct Reports agree. This may be related to different perspectives of a managers behaviour. A person may behave differently towards peers, managers and direct reports. 

In most organisations your line manager is the key influence on career development. Therefore you will want be seen as clear headed, assertive and focussed. People showing these personality traits - i.e. those with high Will, will be rated higher by their managers.

Peers are also influential, as they form a reference group against whom a person is compared, their approval is therefore useful. People with high Energy - approachable, sociable, consultative people are rated better by peers.

So do different perspectives matter? 

They may indeed be problematic if 360s are used for promotion. Generally manager and peer views are given greater weight when 360s are used for promotion. Therefore people may be promoted on the basis of a distorted perception of their actual performance.

Is there a relationship between personality and leadership ratings?

As both Facet5 and the SLR measure behaviour in the workplace we would expect overlap and indeed there are consistent relationships that emerge. That Will and Energy link with higher Transformational skills and Control with Transactional skills is entirely logical. Linking Affection with any skills relating to the consideration and development of other people is also logical. The negative relationship between Emotionality and self ratings is also significant. 

The combination of Facet5 with a 360 indicates both the behaviours that need to be modified and the type of intervention likely to succeed.  A further element to consider is the effect of reviewer-target personality similarity. The more similar two people are in personal style, the more they will think similarly and value similar things. If reviewers “think” the targets are similar to themselves then they will give higher ratings. 

Peers within organisations often have a group identity which members strive to remain part of and therefore indulge in behaviour to enhance their reputation within that group. Introverts do not do this very well. Extraverts are far more likely to reach out to others and interact in a way that enhances their social acceptance. Quiet managers who are more reflective and compassionate may therefore be at a disadvantage. 


The data suggests that differences in personality may influence judgements from other viewpoints. The similarity between self ratings and those from direct reports may be because direct reports have less biased view of actual behaviour - a “proximity effect”.

Peers are influential in a managers career but may base their 360 judgements on the social skills and the competitive style they see as they jockey for position. 

People rated highly by their managers are driving, assertive, independent, self-promoting, enthusiastic and pragmatic. The flip side of this is that they may also be stubborn, self-opinionated, self aggrandising and self centred. Hardly an ideal combination but one that has been seen frequently in our boardrooms, our newspapers and even our courts. 

Facet5 is a multi-trait, normative personality instrument, based on Big 5 theory. It provides scored on 5 main factors and 13 sub-factors. If you would like to know more about Facet5, click here


© 2006-2015 "International People Management". All rights reserved.
CMS JustPageIT | Created e-sense