How to Provide Effective Feedback to Coworkers

We often make our greatest improvements through feedback. A thoughtful critique from someone we trust can shed light on where we stand to improve on whatever endeavor we’re taking on. We need those outside viewpoints to fill the gaps in our own perspectives.

Performance-related feedback is part of every job. The best employees are open to learning what changes they can make to deliver even better work. And great managers are always monitoring an employee’s performance and providing them with the direction they need to produce impactful results.

While manager-to-employee feedback is expected, things can get dicey when someone comments on a coworker’s job performance. Hearing a peer’s thoughts can come across as condescending and out of line. It’s not unreasonable for an employee to think, “That person isn’t my boss, why are they telling me how to do my job?”

But the people who work alongside an employee every day can be an excellent source of feedback. They have a lot of insight into how their coworkers go about their jobs and those perspectives are often different from the managers. While managers mostly assign and monitor projects, it’s the employee and their coworkers who collaborate on the tasks important to the organization’s operations. 

In most cases, an employee shouldn’t receive constructive criticism from a coworker. However, it is possible to invite their colleagues to participate in their performance evaluation. The process is known as 360-degree feedback or multi-rater feedback and results in well-rounded assessments employees are open to receiving.    

Problems with direct feedback from coworkers

You might be wondering why a specific process is required for someone to share feedback with a coworker. We’re used to real-time feedback from our managers. Shouldn’t employees be professional enough to listen to a well-intentioned remark from a colleague?

The reality is negative feedback from a coworker is rarely well-received. But even a nice compliment isn’t effective feedback. These occasional critiques are usually completely praise or criticism. There is no middle ground where the person sharing the feedback acknowledges what the recipient did well and where they stand to improve. 

This type of feedback is also reactive and often lacks a solution going forward. People are open to constructive feedback when the entire situation is considered and comes with specific examples of how they can avoid pitfalls the next time.

Even worse, feedback from a coworker usually stems from their self-interests. Instead of being concerned with helping a colleague improve at their job, it often comes from a place of “make my job easier” or “help me look better.” If the motivation for this peer feedback is transparent, the person on the receiving end is never going to take it to heart.  

Regardless of the source, feedback is effective when it’s part of a larger performance management strategy. Employees should understand what they’re striving to achieve and how they’re expected to conduct themselves and receive feedback that aligns with those expectations. 

How to implement 360-degree feedback

Using 360-degree feedback, the review process expands to include a variety of raters. Evaluations are supplemented with feedback from direct reports, colleagues in other departments, customers, vendors, and—of course—immediate coworkers.

You can invite everyone an employee interacts with in the course of doing their job so you provide them with a complete performance appraisal. That said, 360-degree feedback is not a free-for-all for raters to say whatever they want. It is a structured process meant to inform the formal performance evaluation completed by the manager. Here are a few tips for successfully implementing 360-degree feedback:

  • Select relevant competencies for 360-raters to provide scores on while omitting the ones they won’t have insights into. 
  • Include descriptions with competencies so raters understand what each scoring option represents. 
  • Give raters the opportunity to expand on their scores and provide specific feedback by writing comments.
  • Provide a “not applicable” (NA) scoring option so raters aren’t forced to evaluate the employee on every competency. 
  • Consider making 360-degree feedback anonymous so the employee doesn’t see each raters’ scores and comments. 
  • Give the employee a voice in their review by making self-appraisals part of the evaluation process

Using 360-degree feedback, an employee’s performance evaluation is rounded out with the thoughts and perspectives of the different people they interact with at work. Employees have a platform to provide relevant feedback that can positively impact their coworker’s performance without causing conflict in the workplace.

How coworkers can provide effective feedback

Most employees are happy to complete a 360-degree feedback form. But some are wary of saying the wrong thing, especially when their feedback is documented and reviewed by the employee’s manager and human resources. And then there are others who are overly critical and give little-to-no positive feedback. 

Finding a middle ground is key. Here are a few pointers you can provide to 360-degree raters that will encourage them to share authentic yet considerate thoughts:

  • Be honest yet fair – Think through each competency on the review form and give a score you feel is appropriate based on your experience with the employee. 
  • Provide relevant feedback – Consult the descriptions included on the review form so you provide feedback that aligns with your employer’s expectations.  
  • Be specific and thorough – Provide examples and additional information in the comments field so the employee receives actionable feedback they can use to improve.
  • Keep it professional – It’s fine to be critical but never be rude. Remember that feedback is screened before it’s shared with the employee. 
  • Remember your feedback is only part of the equation – You’re one of many raters evaluating your coworker so do your best to give detailed feedback but don’t be surprised if it’s not acted on. 

The goal of 360-degree feedback is to help everyone in the organization improve by providing comprehensive performance evaluations. Keep these tips in mind as you go through the process of providing feedback to colleagues and trust they’ll treat you with the same respect.

If you want to learn more about 360-degree feedback and how Reviewsnap can improve your performance management strategy, request a live demo today!