Nowack, K. (2003). Aligning Career Paths. Executive Excellence, 20, No. 4, 9-10.

You have seen it happen in every organization--high performing independent contributors or specialists are promoted into leadership roles with disappointing performance. To maximize job satisfaction and cultivate retention, organizations should take steps to identify and align the career path preferences of their internal talent. These career path preferences are based on stable clusters of interests, values and motives that underlie each employee. These career path preferences are highly predictive of job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Career research has consistently shown that some individuals are most stimulated and challenged by staying specialized and remaining in one occupational or job area for most of his/her professional life; other individuals prefer variety, risk and challenge, or starting/owning one's own business that typically shape frequent entrepreneurial opportunities. Other individuals want to move up the corporate ladder with greater opportunities to lead individuals, teams and organizations; and some individuals prefer to manage and lead increasingly more complex projects, rather than, people (e.g., program or project management). Effective alignment of an employee's preferred career path preferences will result in increased satisfaction, productivity and retention.

Understanding the Four Career Path Preferences

MANAGERIAL -- This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in continually moving vertically up the organizational ladder into traditional supervisory and managerial positions with increasing spans of control, responsibility, power, and authority. Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include power, influence, leadership, control, task accomplishment, status, managerial competence, and directing others. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include: upward mobility, promotion, special perks, titles, and organizational symbols of success (e.g., profit sharing incentive plans, company car, stock options, financial planning, expense account, club memberships, etc.).

SPECIALITINDEPENDENT CONTRIBUTOR -- This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in remaining in one career field or profession for much of their working life. Along the way, these specialists are able to highly refine their technical knowledge, skills and abilities. These individuals are less interested in moving up as they are in becoming the expert and having autonomy to do things their way. Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include technical/functional competence, expertise, skill mastery, service to others, independence, affiliation and security. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include: job enrichment, continuing education, membership in professional associations, recognition, motivational programs, organizational benefits, sabbaticals, tenure and job security.

ENTREPRENEURIAL -- This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in rapid job, career, and occupational changes over short periods of time. These individuals enjoy working on diverse projects, tasks, assignments, and business ventures with measurable and visible outcomes. Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include: entrepreneurship, achievement, autonomy, variety, risk, challenge, change, freedom from organizational constraints, flexibility, creativity and diversity. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include flexible schedules, short-term projects, independent contracts, consulting assignments, start-up operations, job sharing, and bonuses.

GENERALIST -- This career path preference is best characterized by those who gradually change jobs and career over time but utilize the foundation of previously acquired skills, knowledge and abilities. These generalists generally move either laterally or upwards increasing their breadth of knowledge and experience along the way. Individuals who follow this career path tend to prefer new challenges and assignments that will enable them to grow and develop professionally. This career path preference is particularly well suited for project and program management assignments within organizations. Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include professional growth and personal development, learning, coaching, developing others, and innovation. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include cross training, job rotation, project management, tuition and educational reimbursement and coaching and mentorship assignments.

Organizations need to identify and create career opportunities for each of these four distinct career path preferences. Effective alignment of an employee's preferred path preferences with internal career opportunities will result in increased satisfaction, productivity and retention

Nowack, K., (2002). Does 360 degree feedback negatively effect company performance: Feedback varies with your point of view. HR Magazine, Volume 47 (6), June 2002.

Multi-rater feedback can raise more questions than it answers. How is an employee to react, for example, when his manager gives him negative ratings, while feedback from his direct reports and peers is laudatory? Research suggests that disagreement between rater groups is common—and that the resulting confusion creates challenges for employee development.

The strength of 360-degree feedback is that it reflects the varying perspectives of different rater groups. That’s also part of the problem. What one group views as effective behavior, another group may see as problematic.

And, each rater group brings natural biases to the table. For example, studies conducted by Organizational Performance Dimensions find that supervisor feedback tends to be based on bottom-line results (are tasks completed on time and well?), technical competence and whether an employee’s behavior draws complaints from colleagues or clients.

By contrast, direct reports base their reviews on factors such as willingness to involve the direct report in decisions, interest in a direct report’s professional development and trustworthiness.

Peers, who lack perspective on their colleagues’ day-to-day performance, tend to focus on leadership potential. Their remarks often reflect opinions on whether the participant has the “right stuff” to motivate and create a compelling vision for others to follow.

None of these perspectives is wrong, and all of these insights can be valuable in creating a 360-degree view of performance. However, it’s important that the person being reviewed—and his supervisors—understand how the “filters” used by different groups affect how they rate performance.

Nowack, K. (2001). Repressive coping and social support: In search of a "super" repressor. Unpublished manuscript.

In recent years, the growing interest in social support as a mediating variable in the stress-illness relationship has been paralleled by a growing concern of the role that negative affectivity (NA), positive affectivity (PA) and self-deception play in influencing reports of stress and well-being. A growing research base has shown that individuals high in self-deception who also report low NA (repressive coping) are associated with significant and adverse physiologic, cardiovascular and immune responses. Furthermore, positive mood (PA) has been studied less frequently but current evidence suggests that it is associated with higher functional and in vivo immune responses, physical health and psychological well-being. Expanding previous research on defensiveness, this study explored the role of self-deception, NA and PA with self-reported social support. In the present study, four groups of Ss (N=122) between the ages of 60 and 70 participated in an 11-day intensive preventive health promotion program for the elderly. Measures of social support (Stress Profile Social Support Scale), NA (Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale), PA (Cognitive Hardiness and Psychological Well-being) and self-deception (Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale) were obtained. Ss scoring above the median on self-deception and below the median on NA were categorized as repressors; those also scoring above the median on PA were categorized as "super" repressors. Individuals high in self-deception reported significantly higher social support compared to others. A significant three-way interaction was found between defensiveness X NA X PA providing some limited evidence for the existence of the hypothesized "super" repressor using cognitive hardiness, but not psychological well-being, as a measure of PA. These findings suggest that measures of defensiveness be included in future social support research. Additional research should continue to explore whether "super" repressors (high defensive, low NA and high PA) may be most vulnerable to adverse cardiovascular and immune effects.

Nowack, K. (2001). Gender differences in self-other ratings in multi-rater feedback. Unpublished manuscript.

This study explored the relationship between gender, self-ratings and other ratings on a validated multi-rater feedback instrument (Manager View/360). Analysis of variance by gender and rater were conducted for 1218 Ss using a multi-rater feedback instrument measuring 20 managerial competencies derived from job analyses of supervisory and management positions in diverse industries. Analysis of variance with the aggregate data revealed that males (N=801) significantly reported higher self-ratings than females (N=417) in the competencies of active listening, oral presentation, delegation, team building, conflict management, and problem-solving (all p's < .01). Separate analysis by each rater group (direct reports, supervisors, peers, team members) revealed that other rater groups significantly rated females higher than males on the majority of 20 managerial competencies (all p's < .01). Supervisor ratings of both men and women were significantly more critical than other rater groups overall. However, supervisor significantly rated females higher than males in 12 of the 20 the competencies including two-way feedback, oral communication, oral presentation, vision/goal setting, planning/organizing, administrative control, performance evaluation, rewarding/recognizing, interpersonal sensitivity, performance management, coaching/developing others and leadership/influence (all p 's < .01). These findings suggest that males tend to inflate self-ratings relative to females in the areas of communication, task management and problem solving. These results are consistent with prior multi-rater feedback research suggesting that women are consistently evaluated more effectively than their male counterparts.

Nowack, K. (2000). Occupational stress management: Effective or not? In P. Schnall, K. Belkie, P. Landensbergis, & D. Baker (Eds.). Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Hanley and Belfus, Inc., Philadelphia, PA., Vol 15, No. 1, pp. 231-233

This chapter critically reviews the research literature on the health and organizational effects of individual worksite stress-management interventions. Individual stress-management interventions are defined as techniques that are designed to help employees modify their appraisal of stressful situations or deal more effectively with symptoms of stress. Diversity of stress techniques, use of varying health outcome measures and methodological limitations makes it difficult to reach firm conclusions about the efficacy of stress-management interventions. Nevertheless, current research suggests that individual stress-management interventions are generally effective in reducing negative individual health outcomes but not consistently producing effects on job/organization-relevant outcomes, such as absenteeism turnover, productivity, or job satisfaction. Researchers and practitioners should design more comprehensive stress-management interventions that attempt to modify stressful aspects of the work environment as well as helping individual employees learn to manage stress through improved appraisal and coping skills.

Nowack, K., Hartley, G, & Bradley, W. (in press). Evaluating results of your 360-degree feedback intervention. Training and Development, April, 1999.

This article describes a post-program survey approach to evaluating the effectiveness and impact of your 360-degree feedback or multi-rater system intervention. A description of the design, administration, and analysis of a post-program evaluation survey is presented along with several sample survey questions.


The first step in evaluating your multi-rater 360-degree intervention is to define what you hoped to accomplish in the first place. The use of a multi-rater intervention should always be purposeful and tied to specific business needs and strategic organizational objectives. The business needs and objectives should be directly tied to your evaluation approach.


The key to evaluating your multi-rater feedback intervention is the development of a well-constructed survey. The following steps should be considered when designing and developing your survey instrument.

  1. Select a Target Audience (Rater and/or Participant)
  2. Identify the Appropriate Evaluation Level (Reaction, Awareness, Behavioral Transfer, or Cost-Effectiveness)
  3. Generate Survey Questions
  4. Determine Appropriate Response Scales
  5. Pilot Test the 360-Degree Feedback Evaluation Survey
  6. Revise and Finalize Your Survey



Once you have your returned surveys in hand, you are now ready to analyze your results. With the use of commercially available statistical software (e.g., Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) or spreadsheet software (e.g., Excel) you should be able to generate basic data analyses useful for your evaluation study (e.g., item frequencies, chi-square analyses, analysis of variance, correlations, t-tests for specific analyses).


If you are using multi-rater feedback interventions in your organization, you should be attempting to evaluate their use and effectiveness. By designing and administering a well designed multi-rater feedback evaluation survey, you can explore how well program participants have gained self-insight and transferred this learning into new behaviors back on the job (level 2 and 3 evaluation). Carefully developed, a multi-rater feedback evaluation survey allows you to better understand what you can do to ensure that your organization is implementing "best practices" in these types of training and development interventions.

Nowack, K. (1999). 360-Degree feedback. In DG Langdon, KS Whiteside, & MM McKenna (Eds.), Intervention: 50 Performance Technology Tools, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, Inc., pp.34-46.

The major goal of 360-degree feedback interventions is to facilitate purposeful individual or team behavior change. Successful behavior change at the individual or team level requires three necessary conditions:

  1. Awareness/Insight;
  2. Motivation/Self-Efficacy; and
  3. Ability.
When properly designed and implemented, multi-rater or 360-degree feedback interventions provide specific feedback to enhance self-insight and self-awareness necessary for any potential behavior change. However, without sufficient motivation and self-efficacy, most behavior change efforts are largely unsuccessful. Effective 360-degree feedback interventions enhance the motivation levels of individuals and teams to make constructive behavior changes to meet the needs of both internal and external stakeholders (e.g., customers, direct reports, team members, etc.).

Multi-rater or 360-degree feedback interventions involve the systematic collection of specific information from multiple sources to enhance awareness of individuals and teams. Most commonly, data and information are collected from multiple sources that have a relevant, and hopefully accurate, perspective to share using focus group, interview, or paper-and-pencil instruments. The data collected are commonly summarized quantitatively and/or qualitatively and shared with one or more members of the organization in an oral and/or written manner. The most common form of multi-rater or 360-degree feedback interventions today typically utilizes an off-the-shelf or in-house designed instrument measuring critical competencies required for competitive performance. Most feedback from these interventions is collected from multiple perspectives (e.g., one's supervisor, direct reports, peers, team members) and is summarized in the form of a written and/or computerized feedback report (often including graphic comparisons of self-other perceptions, written comments, and narrative information). The most common uses of multi-rater or 360-degree feedback interventions include: Executive/management coaching, training and development, career counseling, succession planning and development, training needs assessment, training evaluation, and performance appraisal and evaluation.

Despite the growing popularity of multi-rater of 360-degree feedback, a number of issues emerge in the use and implementation of such organizational interventions. These include such things as:

  1. What competencies should be assessed and measured?
  2. How many individuals ensure a reliable and valid set of observations about another individual?
  3. Who should provide feedback?
  4. How should raters be selected?
  5. Should 360-degree feedback be used for development or appraisal purposes?
  6. Should individuals providing feedback be identified?

The chapter includes a real-world case study and answers to the current issues and questions regarding best practices in the use of 360-degree feedback interventions. References are also provided for additional readings in the multi-rater or 360-degree feedback literature.

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