Feedback is invaluable in its ability to allow us and those we work with to thrive and make improvements. The thoughtful critique of an experienced colleague can illuminate where we might improve or help us grow in our endeavors. Most of the time, our own perspectives alone simply aren’t enough.

How to Provide Effective Feedback to Coworkers

No matter where you work, every job requires employees to receive feedback to do their best. To deliver their best possible work, most employees are willing and eager to hear about the changes they should make. The best leaders are constantly monitoring their employees’ performance and providing them with the feedback they need to produce impactful results.

In most cases, feedback between leaders and employees is anticipated; however, feedback between coworkers can be slightly more difficult to deal with. In many cases, employees feel as though feedback from their peers is condescending, and it can all too often be taken the wrong way, even if the intent is coming from the right place.

While leaders should, of course, be providing regular and valuable feedback, some of the most important feedback an employee can receive is from those they work alongside every day. The people we work the closest with often have different perspectives from managers, who don’t tend to interact with their teams as frequently. Most of the important tasks that are closely related to the operations of the organization are completed by employees and their coworkers instead of managers.

In some organizations, coworkers are highly encouraged to give one another feedback. These organizations foster an all-around culture of feedback, where it’s expected and welcomed by anyone and everyone. Often, they also utilize 360-degree feedback during performance reviews and provide employees with well-rounded assessments. This model of feedback has been proven very effective. So, how can you encourage a culture that welcomes the giving and receiving of feedback between coworkers?

Why Is Hearing Feedback from Coworkers So Difficult?

There might be a reason why discussing feedback with a coworker requires a specific process. Often, the way we receive feedback from a leader is in real-time and with an end goal of improvement in mind. Managers, or the good ones, at least, know how to give feedback effectively. Coworkers, however, don’t always understand there’s a way to give feedback, so it’s received well. They also don’t tend to provide it in real-time; rather, they wait until they’re frustrated by something to blurt it out.

Additionally, feedback from coworkers is often motivated by self-interest. When peer feedback is motivated by the desire to make themselves look better rather than help another coworker improve, any person observing the feedback is unlikely to take it seriously.

Regardless of where it comes from, feedback is effective when it is integrated into a larger performance management plan. As an employee, you can give feedback to coworkers about what you expect of them and how you expect them to behave or perform, as long as you do so in the right manner and with good intentions.

How to Implement 360-degree Feedback

Through 360-degree feedback, a broader variety of team members can be included in the review process. Besides direct reports, this type of feedback means that colleagues from other departments, immediate coworkers, and even customers can be involved in providing feedback. This provides a much more realistic and broad-spectrum review of how an employee is performing.

Leaders should include as many people in the 360-degree feedback as possible to get the most comprehensive results. It is important to note that 360-degree feedback should never be an unrestricted platform for raters to say anything. Here are some useful tips on how to implement an effective and respectful 360-degree feedback model:

  • Focus reviewers’ attention on relevant competencies, omitting those they won’t be able to comment on accurately.
  • By writing comments on their scores, raters can provide specific feedback rather than just a number that leaves the person being reviewed guessing.
  • As an alternative, give raters an option to score employees as “not applicable” (NA), so they aren’t forced to evaluate anything they don’t directly work with their coworkers on.
  • The employee should not be able to see who gave them what score. So, make sure to keep reviews anonymous. This will also encourage more honest feedback from reviewers.
  • Employees should be able to be involved in their review by completing a self-evaluation.

360-degree feedback ensures the fairest review of an employee’s performance by integrating the opinions of multiple sources who work directly with that employee. Thus, feedback can be given to coworkers to positively influence their performance without causing conflict in the workplace.

How Can Coworkers Provide Beneficial Feedback?

If 360-degree feedback is something you’ve already implemented in your organization, then it’s likely employees will be somewhat used to receiving feedback from more than just their managers. However, some employees are still hesitant to give constructive feedback, especially if they know the manager and human resources will review it. On the other hand, some are far too enthusiastic about being overly critical when giving feedback.

An important element of finding a compromise is determining the middle ground. Coworkers should be encouraged to give genuine, honest, but considerate feedback. All feedback should be honest yet fair and based solely on the experiences the reviewer has had with the employee. Reviewers shouldn’t speculate about a coworker’s performance in another area. Similarly, feedback should always be relevant, as well as specific, and thorough. Comments should be left so that the person being reviewed knows exactly where they could improve and how to do so. Lastly, feedback should always be professional. Remember, it’s possible to be critical without being rude.

Using 360-degree feedback, each employee is given a comprehensive performance evaluation that can target specific areas of improvement. Feedback between coworkers is something that should be highly encouraged within an organization as long as it’s facilitated in a respectful, honest, and professional manner.