How to Provide Co-Worker Feedback for a 360 Review

Offer effective feedback your managers can use

Three employees talking at a table

You may be asked to provide feedback about another employee as part of a 360-degree review. When a manager delivers this feedback, your co-workers can benefit from your frank comments in the context of an overall review. The goal of this 360 feedback is to help the employee improve their performance and become a better contributor at work.

Problems With Face-to-Face Feedback

The typical employee is not comfortable giving feedback directly to a colleague, especially if it's less than positive. Face-to-face individual feedback can be counter-productive because it tends to focus on whatever the co-worker is doing now that is bugging their colleague.

Additionally, the feedback focuses on identifying problems and areas that are not working effectively. Ideally, feedback takes a more nuanced approach and focuses on ideas for improvement—not just on the negative.

That's why most organizations using 360 feedback rely heavily on feedback that is given to a manager, who then integrates and shares it with the employee. Other organizations provide electronic review submission that goes directly to the employee. The 360 feedback raters can opt to remain anonymous.

Electronic methods, even when the rater is identified and the co-worker is able to approach them to understand the feedback, are not ideal. Many employees are uncomfortable seeking additional feedback and many raters are uncomfortable providing the feedback essential for the rated employee's work improvement.

Why Co-Worker 360 Feedback Provides a Better Picture

An organization can only continue to grow and prosper if its employees do. Since employees are rarely overseen constantly by the manager, the manager’s feedback to the employee should reflect assessment from people who work with the co-worker daily. The manager needs to assess if their experience aligns with that of these co-workers. Your organization is more effective when a variety of voices go into the 360 feedback delivered.

Tips for Providing Better 360-Degree Feedback

Feedback is useful to the manager when it is specific.

The Balance, 2019 

Make Your Feedback Straightforward and Honest

You hinder your colleague’s development if you hedge your words, leave out deserved criticism, or send up a smoke screen that fogs the true interaction you have with the employee.

Here is an example of useful criticism: "I am bothered a great deal when Mary completes her assignments late. My entire team is then forced to wait until we can complete our portion of the project. This causes us to rush and not turn out our best work. Or, we miss our deadline, too."

Don’t Write a Book

The manager can only deal with a certain amount of information—whether it's praise or criticism. Make your key points succinctly. If you have criticisms, pick one to three to share. Don’t go on and on with details that don’t clarify your key points. State the facts, as you see them. A manager will find it impossible and frustrating to deal with five pages of input.

Do Make Your Key Points

You serve the 360-review process best by highlighting your key interactions with your co-worker. Emphasize the positive aspects of working with them and any areas that could use development.

A maximum of three strengths and three weaknesses is the most a manager can deal with effectively, when combined with feedback from others. This forces you to focus on the most important aspects of your co-worker’s performance.

Provide Examples to Illustrate Your Most Important Points

Your feedback will help your colleague most if you can provide a clarifying example. Saying "John is a poor meeting leader," is not as helpful as saying that when John leads meetings, people talk over each other, the meetings go over their scheduled time, start late, and rarely have an agenda.

If you say Sarah doesn’t listen very well to the opinions of other employees, you are not providing the manager with enough information. Describe how Sarah’s unwillingness to listen to other employees affects work. Try this, instead:

"Sarah calls a group of us together and asks for our opinion and almost never alters her decision or direction based on the feedback other employees provide. Consequently, few employees care to offer her their opinion anymore."

Here's another example: When you update Barbara about a project you are both active on, she forgets what you told her. During your next interaction, she asks all the same questions again.

Specific feedback for Larry might focus on how every time you make a critical comment or try to have input to your shared project, he exhibits visible anger and argues about the input. It is not conducive to you continuing to give honest feedback.

Don’t Expect to See the Employee Act on Your Feedback

The manager is looking for patterns of behavior, both positive and negative. If you are the only co-worker who offers a particular criticism or praise, the manager may choose to focus on the behaviors that more employees identified.

Plus, managers recognize that employees can only focus on a few things at a time to effectively change their behavior. Hitting the employee with 10 different areas for improvement will result in a demoralized employee who feels they are doing nothing right.

You want an employee to perceive feedback as a genuine opportunity to grow personal and professional skills, not as a dump about everything they are doing wrong.

Don’t Worry About Negative Impact on Your Co-Worker

The employee’s manager is looking for patterns they can share with the employee. Your feedback is only one piece that goes into the awarding of raises and promotions. The feedback from additional co-workers, the manager’s opinions, the employee’s self-evaluation, and their work contributions and accomplishments all affect the 360 performance appraisal.

Use the Experience as a Growth Opportunity

As you think about your co-worker’s performance and interactions, examine actions and habits you also have that people love or hate. You’re sure to find some commonalities with your co-worker. It’s a great opportunity to look at yourself and think about what you could improve, too.

By offering thoughtful feedback with specific examples, the manager can share the feedback with your co-worker, or your coworker can read the feedback and digest its essence. You are presenting an opportunity for the employee to grow.

The 360-review ensures that each employee’s performance and contribution get wide input from across the organization. It is so much more effective than relying exclusively on one manager’s opinion.