2012年的一本畅销书《众包的绩效评估：如何利用社会认同的力量提高员工绩效》（The Crowdsourced Performance Review: How to Use the Power of Social Recognition to Transform Employee Performance）则对这种方式的流行起到了推波助澜的作用。这本书的作者埃里克•莫斯利是人力资源咨询公司Globoforce的CEO，公司客户包括金融软件公司Intuit、安进公司（Amgen）、毕马威会计事务所（KPMG）和宝洁（Procter & Gamble）等。去年，莫斯利在《哈佛商业评论》（Harvard Business Review ）上发表了一篇极具影响力的博客文章，大谈360度反馈的好处。他重点谈了“群众的智慧”，声称“认可是员工自然而然拥有的东西——他们希望认可同僚出色的工作”，他们是“及时的、重要的见解”的源泉。
劳动仲裁律师事务所Fisher & Phillips的律师奈舍巴•吉特灵说：“员工的绩效评估是雇主应对歧视索赔的第一道防线。”如果公司认为自己进行解雇、降职或发放低于平均水平的奖金有合法的、非歧视性的理由，详细的绩效评估资料可以为它的观点提供支持。
2010年一起有关性别歧视的集体诉讼案，也就是陈•奥斯特诉高盛（Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs）一案让这个问题得到了广泛关注。原告称高盛的众包评估制度“允许令人难以接受的主观性与偏见”，称这种做法使得男性屡次选择他们的朋友进入绩效评估排名的前列（可以获得丰厚的奖金），从而把女性排除在外。
Whether your company calls it 360-degree feedback, multi-source feedback, or crowdsourced performance reviews, chances are you've been required to fill out a form designed to let you praise or pillory your peers and the people above you (as well as your subordinates, if you have any). The practice, which originated with the German military during World War II, spread through American companies in the 1990s. It's since been made easier by technology, with online questionnaires cutting out the cumbersome paperwork that used to be involved.
A 2012 bestseller, The Crowdsourced Performance Review: How to Use the Power of Social Recognition to Transform Employee Performance, added fuel to the fire. Author Eric Mosley is CEO of human resources consulting firm Globoforce, which counts Intuit (INTU), Amgen (AMGN), KPMG, and Procter & Gamble (PG) among its many big clients.
Extolling the virtues of 360-degree feedback in an influential Harvard Business Review blog post last year, Mosley pointed to the "wisdom of crowds" and declared, "Recognition is something that comes naturally to employees -- they want to recognize their peers for great work" and are a font of "timely, measurable insights."
Maybe so. Experts estimate that between one-third and one-half of U.S. companies now use some form of crowdsourced performance appraisals -- despite reams of research over the years that cast serious doubt on whether letting employees rate each other is fair, accurate, or useful.
One study, for instance, noted four primary reasons why crowdsourced reviews tend to be unreliable. One of them was that people "care more about the rewards associated with finishing the task than the actual content of the evaluation itself." In other words, faced with one of those 360-degree forms to fill out, most employees just want to get it over with.
The biggest problem with crowdsourcing performance appraisals, however, is that the practice can muddy the legal waters if an employee sues the company.
"Employees' performance reviews are an employer's first line of defense against discrimination claims," says Nesheba Kittling, an attorney at labor law firm Fisher & Phillips. Detailed documentation of job performance "provides support for an employer's contention that it had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons" for, say, a firing, a demotion, or a smaller-than-average bonus payout.
By contrast, Kittling says, "Peer-to-peer reviews, especially in a social networking environment, will likely distort the truth." For one thing, employees often don't have as clear an understanding of other people's duties, their performance goals, or their success at meeting those goals as bosses have. Lacking enough information to judge colleagues' work accurately, people tend to turn evaluations into "a popularity contest," Kittling says. "They may be giving bad reviews to coworkers they don't like, and inflating the 'grades' of those they do."
The issue came up in a widely-publicized 2010 sex discrimination class-action suit, Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs. The complaint alleged Goldman's (GS) crowdsourced review system "permitted unacceptable levels of subjectivity and bias," which the plaintiffs said led to men repeatedly voting their friends into the top quartile of performance -- where the juiciest bonuses go -- and shutting women out.
Kittling believes much of crowdsourcing's appeal arises from the fact that "managers don't like giving performance reviews. They're too busy, and they dread delivering bad news."
But handing the task off to employees' peers "just increases companies' legal liability," she adds. "It's okay to solicit some feedback from coworkers -- as long as there is a clear paper trail showing that any action the company takes is based on a supervisor's assessment alone." If you're a manager, your appraisal of your subordinates' work still has to be the only one that counts.