Ever feel like your boss’s personal perception of you is getting in the way of you receiving accurate feedback on your performance and contributions at work? To avoid that, some companies are allowing coworkers to have a say in how they think others are doing their jobs. It’s one effort to help mitigate bias, but also to better measure productivity and collaboration in hybrid and remote work environments.
“It’s a way of sort of broadening the aperture and getting the full picture about an employee’s contributions,” said Josh Merrill, founder and CEO of Confirm, a performance review platform. “The reason why it’s so important is the way we work today is collaborative. We’re constantly working with the people around us, within our team and also outside of our teams, and they’re all stakeholders in how we actually do our work,” he said.
For many workers, their individual managers really do have the ultimate say in how they are performing. A quarter of workers overall said their performance reviews have been negatively affected by their manager’s personal biases toward them, according to a Syndio survey including responses from over 1,000 full-time workers across job levels. For certain groups, those numbers are even higher — some 35% of LGBTQ+ employees said that, along with over 50% of Asian employees, that survey found.
One method used in the performance review process by some companies, like Netflix and Facebook, according to HR software firm Zavvy, is dubbed the “360-degree” review method. It’s where one’s performance review typically includes written feedback from their manager, clients or customers, and from coworkers who are either randomly or personally selected. But that can bring in even more biases — someone may be assigned to review a newer coworker they’ve worked with little so far, or on the other hand, could be assigned their best friend.
A better way to get feedback is to ask open-ended questions about exactly who works together and how, Merrill said. Confirm clients use a method called organizational network analysis, where staff are asked survey-based questions like: who do you go to for help and advice?; who do you go to as a source for energy and motivation? Their answers provide meaningful data to better identify who is truly a key team player and considered an expert by those they work with — and who may be more collaborative or even isolated in the workplace.
The surveys are typically conducted every six months or quarterly, which also helps paint a clearer picture of newer coworkers’ growth and development trajectory, he said.
While most organizations still use more traditional performance review processes, it’s still important to know what your coworkers think about your work, said resume and career strategist at ResumeBuilder Julia Toothacre. You can start by asking yourself and honestly answering one question: “How would my coworkers describe me?”
You can also take matters into your own hands by simply asking coworkers what they think you do well, and what you can improve on. Of course, your coworkers may not be entirely candid with their answers and it’s important to not get defensive if they do answer honestly.
“This is really a time for you to take in that information and essentially be vulnerable with them and say thank you for giving me that feedback,” Toothacre said.
‘It’s important to assess how our coworkers describe us because these are people we work closely with every day. They are the ones who likely spend more time with you than your manager,” she said. “When you have a good relationship with coworkers, it boosts your overall perception throughout the organization. You want people to speak well of you, not complain about you. In some cases, you might get a distorted view, positive or negative, but it’s still better to know so you can manage any negative situations,” she added.