Business leaders use co-worker evaluations as a way to gather employee information directly from those working with a colleague. However, having co-workers write performance reviews for each other is challenging because people might fall into one of two traps: being overly kind or overly critical. It's important to understand that even criticisms can be worded in ways that are positive and constructive, helping co-workers make performance improvements.

Meeting Performance Requirements

Employees are judged primarily on whether or not the job gets done above any other metric. For example, co-workers and managers can often deal with a quirky tech representative as long as the computers are working and any troubleshooting is done quickly and efficiently. When wording comments about performance requirements, focus on specific duties.

Beyond the specific words, phrase feedback that combines strong areas with suggestions for improvement. For example, comments for a customer service phone representative might include, "Jane has sincere desire to help frustrated customers, but she sometimes spends too much time allowing customers to vent before getting to a resolution, creating a backlog of other callers."

Providing factual information without injecting emotional judgment is important. Most people are willing to improve in areas in which they are weak but become resistant to feedback if it feels like an attack. Keeping emotions out of the review prevents resistance.

Interpersonal Skills 

When co-workers get along, departments function better. Team members are happier, are better able to meet deadlines and have more efficient and effective performance as a whole. Co-workers evaluating the interpersonal skills give leadership the inside information needed to troubleshoot team problems.

This type of feedback sometimes feels like high school cliques judging each other. Focus on whether the communication is effective while recognizing that people express ideas differently. For example, "Joe tends to be very quiet during team meetings but always follows up with a group email summarizing ideas and asking pertinent questions." A co-worker could elaborate further explaining that they hope Joe is comfortable speaking up in meetings because his input is appreciated and valuable.

Coaching and Being Coached

A valuable skill for any employee is being coachable or being able to coach others. Being a subordinate or manager really isn't relevant because teams rely on each other to help each other. Coaching can be something small such as showing someone how to overcome an objection in a sales call or something major like properly inputting client data so other parties in the chain of service have access to correct and updated information.

Wording this type of feedback in a performance review needs to remain objective and could be situationally specific. For example, "Beth has tremendous experience and is always willing to help the new bank tellers with closing routines, resulting in fewer balancing issues. Her experience can be a double-edged sword because she sometimes has trouble implementing new corporate programs."

When providing feedback, especially in an area needing improvement, start with something already meeting high-performance standards to segue into an area that needs improvement.