Academic research in 360-degree feedback continues to be dominated by a positivist approach with analyses of the feedback ratings. In contrast, this qualitative study explores how people make sense of 360, across the chain of meaning making involving not only raters and feedback recipients but also HR managers, facilitators and external consultants. Two corporate case studies in the pharmaceutical sector show how 360 evolves as a social process and carries a variety of meanings in different organisations and management contexts. Quasi-scientific rituals are revealed, demonstrating the existence of pseudo-anonymity and of complex use of numerical ratings and narrative comments. Woven alongside these corporate case studies is an autoethnography, which examines emotional and cognitive responses to two rounds of 360 asking for feedback on coaching performance. The autoethnographic thread allows insights into the dynamic relationship between academic and practitioner perspectives, as the researcher moves between both worlds. This PhD makes three contributions: the conceptualisation of 360 as a social process; the questioning of taken-for-granted customs within 360; and a methodological contribution to the development of autoethnographic practice.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University. In agreement with one of the case study companies, chapter five has not been released for public access.