It's that time of year at Microsoft: everyone's reviews are
underway to be completed and sent up the chain by the end of the
month. One part of the review process, one given even greater
emphasis this year, is peer feedback/review. While I'm specifically
talking to the 90k Microsoft employees here, I think these comments
apply to any organization that incorporates peer feedback into the
At my last place, before I joined Microsoft, I started
incorporating peer review feedback into the annual review for my
directs (this was not the usual process). I found it worked really
well, so I was happy to see that as part of the official process at
I have three directs at Microsoft (Jon Galloway, Jesse Liberty,
and Joe Stagner). This is my first year doing calibration and
review, as I became their manager only last September/October. It
also happens to be the first year with the new review process and
rating system, so that actually helps me out a bit :)
At the start of the review process, each of them submitted to me
(we have a tool for this, of course) a list of people they'd like
peer feedback from. It's optional to respond to feedback requests,
so you usually get around a 40%-60% response rate, depending on how
many you send. As a manager, you can see the feedback for your
directs, but no one can see their own feedback, nor can they see
who actually responded. During the review process, you take themes
from the feedback and report that.
What I look For
While succinct and glowing praise is nice to read if you're the
recipient, as a manager, it doesn't really tell us anything. In
fact, it can sometimes reflect poorly because it shows the person
didn't care enough about the recipient to write something
meaningful. Of course, there could be any number of reasons for
that, but it still doesn't help.
When I read feedback, I'm looking for some combination of the
- What you worked on together. Something specific that shows the
person is completing feedback based on actual work done
- Helpful information on how the recipient collaborated with the
feedback submitter. Did they lead? Did they follow? Did they
contribute well? Were they just warming a seat?
- What value the recipient provided to the effort. Anything
specific that says "Because of [recipient], we were able to do X"
is very very helpful.
- Constructive feedback on what the recipient could have done
better. If they really did a bang up perfect job, you can leave
this out, but that is rarely the case.
Remember, the recipient won't see your direct feedback (unless
you send a copy, which some do), so you should feel free to be
honest and candid.
Because that's what I look for, that's also what I try to
provide. If I can't incorporate a few of those things into the
feedback, I generally decline to offer feedback on that person.
What You Should Do When Asking for Feedback
In my opinion (and I didn't even follow my own advice this
year), I recommend that when you submit a list of names to your
manager for peer review, you should, at the same time, send each of
those people an email that briefly states the following:
- A note saying you submitted their name as a person to provide
feedback, and how much you value their feedback in the peer review
process (so they'll complete it)
- What you worked with them on (a reminder so they can write
something about it)
- A thank-you for their time (again, so they'll complete it)
- Any special dates for feedback deadlines, in case your org
(like mine) has an accelerated calibration schedule
That quick email will help get you back into the person's mind
(maybe you worked with them 10 months ago) and show that you value
I hope that all helps, and gives you one manager's perspective
on the peer feedback process.