8 Pros and Cons of Peer Reviews

Peer reviews are a growing method of evaluating an employee’s performance. By asking the co-workers of an employee to fill out their own evaluation in an anonymous way, a 360 degree level of input can be achieved. This lets the employee know what their true strengths happen to be and what kind of weaknesses they might need to shore up. Here are the key points to consider when looking at the pros and cons of peer reviews.

Here Are the Pros of Peer Reviews

1. It can help to improve personal performance.
It is easy to believe that things are going well when it comes from a personal perspective. Employees, and especially managers, tend to put blinders on to their behaviors and the quality of their work over time. Peer reviews help to improve personal performance because it forces those blinders to be removed. Feedback is critical and the anonymous feedback of a peer review can provide needed information for improvement.

2. It allows employees to improve their curve of growth.
Some people like to say it takes an employee 6 months to get used to a job and then another 6 months to get good at it. By implementing a series of peer reviews that happen along the way, the learning curve can be improved because of the information that can be provided. This also lets co-workers see where learning gaps might be and find a way to help fill them.

3. The feedback provided can be extremely focused.
Although some peer reviews can be rambling and unfocused, this is generally because there haven’t been any rules set in place. A peer review that focuses on specific high performance traits that are necessary to complete a job can provide focused and meaningful feedback that isn’t as threatening as the invitation for complete discourse. Allow some flexibility for personal feedback, but make sure it is structured so the review doesn’t become more reflective of a social experiment.

4. It stops an employee’s performance from being dictated by a single individual.
One individual reviewing an employee is not generally going to be able to evaluate the entire performance. Supervisors aren’t always watching their direct reports. They don’t see everything, which means they can miss some pretty good stuff. Peer reviews help to make sure that good stuff has a better chance of being recorded in the employee record.

Here Are the Cons of Peer Reviews

1. It forces an employee’s co-workers into an uncomfortable position.
It doesn’t take long to realize that what is supposed to be an anonymous process really isn’t so anonymous. Employees can recognize each employee’s handwriting and language style to know who has said what about them. Co-workers are scared to create conflict or hurt someone’s feelings, so being told to do so can be completely demoralizing.

2. It discourages co-worker relationships.
If an employee knows that their peers are going to be reviewing them, it alters the relationship that is formed. Humans are built with a flight or fight mechanism and this kicks in with this type of structure. An employee will either campaign for a good review from their co-workers, which takes time away from their work, or flee from social contacts to avoid having one written about them. This alters the team dynamic because everyone is forced to become a manager.

3. It shifts an employee’s focus away from the customer.
When reviews are based on the opinions and observations of co-workers, the focus of the employee shifts from what the customer thinks to what the co-worker thinks. Internal relationships within the team become more important because those anonymous reviews become the foundation of their employment record. What’s more important in the long-term perspective with that attitude? Whether or not a customer is happy? Or whether or not an employee can stay employed?

4. There is an assumption that raises come from good peer reviews.
Employee reviews are typically a large factor in whether or not a raise will be awarded. Sometimes peer reviews actually do contribute to the amount of money a person earns. This also changes the dynamic of the employee relationship. If a bad review makes it so that someone doesn’t get a raise, the feedback provided will be ignored. Why? Because the employee will feel like their team has a grudge against them. Instead of listening to the feedback, vengeance will be sought in some way… and most likely through the peer review.

The pros and cons of peer reviews show that this method of evaluation must be carefully balanced for it to be successful. People will campaign for their own needs over the needs of a team or a company. If an employee feels like they can directly influence their reviews by focusing on internal relationships, there’s a good chance that no real work is going to get done.

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