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What Nobody’s Telling You at Work and Why You Should Ask


What Nobody's Telling You at Work and Why You Should Ask

Remember the last time you really stepped in it at work? You knew it right away. That sinking feeling in your gut that you cannot shake.

There were signs you were veering off course but like most folks we tend not to see what is right in front of us.

We would hope one of our co-workers would give us a nudge back to center but that’s what the workplace is like sometimes – people don’t like to have difficult discussions.

Peer reviews are the workplace equivalent of asking someone, after you know you have stepped in it, “What could I have done better? And when and where did I veer off course?” He or she saves you from looking like a dope and spares others from having to initiate that uncomfortable conversation.

Typically a peer review is colleague to colleague – a review by your peers – just as the name implies. They can provide important insight into skills and work styles that could use some improvement or highlight things that are working well.  

Some companies have a practice of utilizing peer reviews or incorporate them into a 360-degree review program which includes other components such as self-reviews and assessments by managers. Other companies do not.

All peer discussions are not without peril however, as they can be subjective. Colleagues may take the opportunity to vet personality issues or use the review as a platform to champion their cause for a promotion while chipping away at others. Understanding these dynamics are critical for the application to be useful.  

In my 25+ years in the workforce, just over half of the companies I worked for utilized either peer reviews or a 360 review program. When they were not initiated by the company I simply implemented it on my own.

Why you should seek feedback from your peers?

I know, I know – things could not be better, right? You’re the gem of the office, your team is humming along nicely, production and sales are up and there are blue skies for as far as you can see. Queue the Disney music and animated birds.  

That’s fantasyland and nobody lives there except five year olds.  

There is always room for improvement and the best place to start is with yourself.

I have found over time that my skill set has changed in response to my role and related responsibilities. I have had to learn new skills under some circumstances and have had other skills get rusty. Peer reviews are just the reality check I need to remind me where I may be slipping and reinforce what I’m getting right.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be tough to get honest feedback. But the point is to shine some light on any blind spots we may have. Once we understand what those are we can adjust. That helps us work more effectively with others and ultimately furthers our own success.  

I think of it just like exercise. If I work out, I feel better, I think more clearly and I control my weight. The moment I put away my hiking boots and curl up with a box of Voodoo Doughnuts, I gain weight, I have less energy, and I feel like a sloth.

It’s the same at work: you start to drift down the path of not listening to your teammates and there is no sign (such as why did the dryer shrink all my clothes – oh yeah, doughnuts…) to tell you to fix it. The decline continues and soon problems arise, problems that could have been avoided.

How I implement peer reviews?

The peer review I employ is really quite simple. Each year I ask my teammates to review me.

There is no Disney magic here – I provide them with a list of questions after which we have honest one-to-one conversations.


Here are the ground rules:

  • Be open to feedback. Don’t waste your co-workers time to run through an exercise and not use the feedback to improve.
  • Be sure your co-workers understand that there are no fears of reprisals. It is hard to hear honest feedback, but you have to use it to improve yourself not attack the person who was honest with you.
  • Build a plan to improve. Take the information and pencil out a plan to get better. Just like exercise – you need a plan. It doesn’t magically happen.

Anyone can initiate peer reviews. Whether you are a manager or have no direct reports, you simply need to ask your teammates to give you truthful feedback.  

If you have never done this I implore you to try it! The feedback will open your eyes to both your weaknesses and your strengths and it will provide you with important insight to continue to build your personal brand.  

Peer reviews have helped me to continuously learn, grow and improve. They have helped me be a better teammate, a better manager, a better leader and most of all a better person. I plan to do them until I am perfect – which means I’ll be doing them forever.

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