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The importance of anonymity in Watergate and 360 feedback

When I decided to write about the subject of anonymity, the first example that came to mind was the Watergate scandal. I can probably thank my journalism background for that – I think it’s a requirement to watch All the President’s Men before you can officially become a reporter. Okay, I’m kidding. Well…kind of.


Anyway, the newspaper coverage by the Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward fueled the focus on the Watergate event and the investigation. However, the duo would have not been able to uncover nearly the amount of information they did without Woodward’s anonymous source – Deep Throat.

Woodward promised Deep Throat that he would not reveal the man’s position with the government, nor would he ever quote him in his articles. With the promise of anonymity, Deep Throat told the reporters inside information that made headlines across the world.

It was important to keep Deep Throat anonymous for that situation. When it comes to 360 Feedback, anonymity is also a vital component.

The purpose of 360 degree feedback is to provide an accurate and well-rounded view of how others perceive the participant’s efforts. The feedback comes from raters that can include the person’s managers, peers, direct reports, etc. Without obtaining feedback from all sides, people may continue to work with blind spots in the workplace.

For some raters there may be an intimation factor associated with giving feedback. This could stem from a fear of conflict or the chance that what they say could impact their own job. In those cases, the rater may give bland middle of the road ratings, which will not benefit the participant or the rater.

Rater anonymity is key to the success of a 360 Feedbackprogram because it will lead to more honest and open feedback from raters. The knowledge that their identity is confidential allows the raters to focus on each question individually and think about specific work-related examples to justify ratings. When selecting a vendor, look for an instrument that guarantees the answers will remain confidential.

So anonymity is important – whether it’s for a key source that helps uncover a political scandal, or for raters with 360 degree feedback surveys.

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