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Introduction to Rating Scales


By using the emoticons listed above, to what extent do you agree with the statements listed below?

There are a variety of rating scales that can be used to gather the opinions of employees in an organization. In 360-degree feedback, the Likert Scale is the most commonly used rating scale as it is designed to give credit to “the inflexible aspect of personality” recognizing the range of response values (Likert 1932). Given that answers rarely fit into a strict ‘yes’ or ‘no’ field, the fixed response anchors are beneficial because they are clear and carry a directional spectrum. A Likert Scale is particularly advantageous in 360-degree feedback forms because it offers a quantitative, easy to read snapshot that can be interpreted and easily measured against the particular employee’s self-ratings. Generally, this scale offers a 1 to 5 range that can also be expressed in word or emoticon values. Several examples of Likert Scales are listed below:


For example, the question, “This employee is open to criticism”

1       2         3         4         5         

(Completely accepts peer feedback)                      (Not accepting of feedback at all)

Strongly agree / agree / don’t know / disagree / strongly disagree

Very Important / important / moderately important / of little importance / unimportant

   1      2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10

(Disagree)               (Neutral)               (Agree)

Many factors also influence potential bias on these rating sales, for example, the number of points on the rating scale (Weijters et al. 2010). With an odd number of points, it is easy for a respondent to remain neutral and avoid expressing any opinion at all. Also, as listed above, the scale can be switched in a direction to ensure that a respondent is paying full attention to the question. In addition, the question organization is imperative that it keeps raters engaged.

It is also important to note the different cultural implications in rating scales that could skew results. Van Herk et al. (2004) studied how German and Italian respondents interpreted a series of 21 questions. They found that Italians were 10% more likely to use the 1 response and significantly more likely to leave a question blank. This implies that with a rising global nature in companies, it is important to recognize that scores cannot necessarily be deemed equal. This is especially relevant considering there only several raters per employee and a cultural bias could end up skewing results dramatically. The diagram Van Herk’s 2004 study is listed below:

To maximize the depth of the 360-degree feedback, it is sometimes advised to leave room for an open response. Obtaining qualitative data is time-consuming and difficult to standardize, though it does offer more substantial results especially when conducting an in-person review. In some instances, however, receiving qualitative data can often discourage an employee as it carries bias. This will be elaborated further in the section regarding how to design questions most effectively.






Likert, R. (1932). A technique for the measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology. 140(22), 5-55.

Van Herk, H., Poortinga, Y. H., & Verhallen, T. M. M. (2005). Equivalence of survey data: relevance for international marketing. European Journal of Marketing. 39(3/4), 351-364.

Weijters, B., Cabooter, E., & Schillewaert, N. (2010). The effect of rating scale format on response styles: The number of response categories and response category labels. International Journal of Research in Marketing. Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2010, Pages 236-247


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