I don’t want to give 360 feedback to my coworker

A reader writes:

I am in the same title and report to the same manager as another person, with whom I sometimes work tangentially on projects (we work together maybe 2-5% of my time). That’s great, since working with him generates 80% of all the agita in my current role. He’s wound really tight, is very aggressive on issues that don’t call for it, throws me under the bus, and is generally not a great coworker. I do what I can to stay out of his sphere. I know that I have to speak with him about how his actions are interfering with our work relationship, but the times when it’s been bad, it seems like this may be more of an escalation point than a remediation point.

Lo and behold, this person has tagged me for his 360 review as part of our end of the year evaluation. He has a choice, so I am astounded that he would choose me (his histrionics at my desk have been remarked on by coworkers). It seems like my options are 1) say yes and speak honestly about his strengths and weaknesses, 2) say no with no explanation (which will likely worsen things), 3) decline and try and have the hard conversation as to why.

Is there a magical fourth door I am missing? I lean towards 3, because that’s what I would want. While I wouldn’t go into an evaluation with a subordinate without having raised the issues beforehand, am I obligated to do the same thing for a peer?

Nope, the “it’s better not to have surprises in a performance evaluation” principle applies to people you’re managing but not to peers. You’re not under any obligation to be giving ongoing feedback to peers.

Certainly when you’re able and willing to give useful feedback to coworkers, it’s often a good thing for you, the coworker, and the organization. But when a peer is aggressive, defensive, and difficult, your obligation to initiate that conversation — which was never particularly high to begin with — drops even lower (although you might have some level of obligation to bring it up with their manager, depending on the specifics of the situation).

But this is different. You’ve been directly asked to provide feedback for a 360 review. This kind of feedback is exactly the sort of thing that belongs in a 360. Declining in this context would be a disservice to your coworker and, more importantly, to your organization. The reason organizations do 360s is partly to draw this type of thing out from people who otherwise might not get heard.

I certainly understand your worry about creating additional tension in the relationship, but the answer isn’t to back out of the 360 altogether. Instead, why not talk to his manager about your trepidation? Explain that you’d like to give candid, open feedback, but that his behavior toward you in the past has you worried about the impact this will have on your relationship going forward (which of course just underscores that your feedback is likely something that should be heard). Ask his manager what’s being done as far as anonymity for those who contribute feedback, as well as what can be done to ensure that you don’t experience blowback for participating (because even with rock-solid anonymity, some types of feedback may make the source clear — although it sounds like this guy might be hearing similar feedback from additional people as well, so maybe not in this case).

But do take this opportunity to weigh in and what you’re observing and how it affects your and his work. That’s really the whole point to these things.

{ 111 comments… read them below }

  1. blu*

    Situations like this are why 360 feedback so challenging to do well. I just started a new job over the summer and I have a coworker who asked me to participate in his and it’s not anonymous at all. I had to reply directly to him via email with my feedback. It was very awkward.

  2. NewishAnon*

    I don’t know how this 360 feedback process works. If OP was specifically selected by his coworker for the feedback, how can it be anonymous?

    Also, OP, I don’t see a point in option 3, declining and having a difficult conversation as to why. Isn’t that the hard part of giving the feedback? If you are doing it anyway, why decline to go through with the process. There are ways to deliver bad feedback in a constructive way. Surround it with good feedback. Instead of saying he’s aggressive you can say “you can come on strong when you’re passionate about an idea you have” and then state how that affects people working with him. Also, for when he throws you under the bus, you could say something like “Sometimes we work as a team on things and when mistakes happen you tend not to share the blame. I would appreciate it if we can tackle issues as a united front.”

    1. Anonnynanny*

      There are ways to deliver bad feedback in a constructive way. Surround it with good feedback. Instead of saying he’s aggressive you can say “you can come on strong when you’re passionate about an idea you have” and then state how that affects people working with him.

      I think doing this does a disservice to the coworker. Softening the message can lessen the impact and isn’t effective at getting the point across. If your concern is that your coworker is aggressive and explosive, that’s what you should be saying. Otherwise, I don’t see the value in contributing to the 360 at all.

      1. Nerd Girl*

        That was my thought as well!!! At a previous position I had a co-worker who was difficult to work with. She was dismissive of the ideas, thoughts and feelings of others. She was rude and insulting. She would sulk when her ideas weren’t used and would try to sabotage projects others were chosen to lead. Our manager would say things like “She focuses well on her own projects” “She’s direct and unafraid of confrontation” and “She’s passionate about the ideas she has”. It’s all spin. She was difficult to work with, she didn’t work in the best interest of the company, and she was confrontational and ultimately it took the abrubt departure of 3/4 of the department (all within weeks of one another) before the company took a look at the inner workings of that team.

        1. YourCdnFriend*

          I agree, this is the wrong way to give feedback. But, if your manager had included the negative as well as the positive and was specific about the results of your coworkers actions, that could have been valuable. “she’s direct and unafraid of confrontation but jumps too quickly to confrontation and doesn’t use effective engagement strategies. This results in team members being uncomfortable working with her and creates unnecessary tension in the team. coworker needs to work on developing problem solving strategies that don’t alienate team mates.”

          1. TL -*

            I think sometimes you just need negative feedback when you’re behaving negatively. Of course, a good manager would be noting the positive as well as the negative, but frankly, if you’re throwing temper tantrums, I don’t want anyone walking away thinking there’s anything positive about that behavior. The message needs to be: You’re throwing tantrums, they’re unacceptable, and they need to stop.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          I totally agree. “Softening” or “Spinning” the feedback does not magically turn it into “Constructive” feedback.

          To use some of what NerdGirl mentioned, if you want to take feedback like “She was difficult to work with” and make it more constructive, you need to add one or more specific examples of how the person was difficult to work with. And how they could do it better.

          It’s like if I paint a picture and I ask for feedback, and the colors are garish, I don’t want to hear “I like your picture”. And I don’t want to hear “That’s some bold use of color”. I want to hear “You need to work on your use of color: for instance, in the upper-left corner; and over here, these greens aren’t working.”

          And to be clear: it’s not really a matter of “what I want to hear” – it’s a matter of what I need to hear. I did a lot of website design in the 90s, and I learned to hate it when someone would say “that looks great!” Because the only way I was going to learn to do truly good stuff was to take the blow to the ego and listen when people told me where I got it wrong.

        3. NewishAnon*

          I guess I wasn’t thinking that it was softening it in a bad way. “Aggressive” can mean different things to different people. This has apparently never been discussed with the coworker before. Going straight for the kill might be a little much. I think productive feedback is still accomplished by using language that is not confrontational, and can even work better because confrontation often makes people who are receiving feedback shut down.

        4. NewishAnon*

          I don’t think the suggestions I offered were this kind of spin. It’s different to avoid defensiveness than it is to completely avoid the issue at hand. Your manager also did not address how the employees behavior affected others, which I think is key.

      2. YourCdnFriend*

        I can see how you can take issue with the idea of surrounding bad feedback with good. But, in the examples NewishAnon gives, it sounds more like they are advocating making negative feedback constructive. their examples advocate removing the emotion from the feedback, using gentle but assertive language and being specific about the impact of the other persons actions. To me, those are all excellent strategies to giving difficult feedback.

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          I like Newish’s suggestions. It’s about delivering constructive criticism in a way it will be heard. When X happens, Y is the result and it affects the workplace with Z. I don’t see it as “spinning.” To me, spinning an issue is saying X (which is bad) actually is P (fake good thing!)

        2. NewishAnon*

          Yes. This was my intention. Rather than going at a coworker with “you’re aggressive, difficult to work with, and don’t listen to others!!” you can say it in a more constructive manner that would more likely be received in a way that makes the person hearing it take it to heart instead of becoming defensive.

      3. Colette*

        Agreed. If the OP is going to give feedback, it should be clear and direct. That doesn’t mean brutal – the OP should include things that employee does well, if possible, and should focus on the behaviors, not the person himself.

      4. Sunshine*

        As a manager to a subordinate, I agree. But this is a coworker. I’m not sure the responsibility to get the message across is the same.

        1. Anonnynanny*

          I agree that it’s not the same, but I do think that if you’re going to bother submitting the evaluation, you should be as clear and direct as possible. If the coworker hears clear/direct feedback, the OP (hopefully) benefits from an adjustment or an improvement in his behavior. Sugarcoating the feedback resolves very little and leaves OP dealing with the same frustration in every interaction with the coworker.

          1. NewishAnon*

            I guess I don’t see how saying “you come on strong when you’re passionate about an idea you have and it affects me and others in XX ways” isn’t clear and direct.

            1. Colette*

              The issue isn’t that he’s passionate – the issue is that he aggressive, which seems to include yelling.

              Passion can be a good thing, and that’s what he’ll likely hear if it’s phrased that way.

              1. NewishAnon*

                I meant for “comes on strong” to be the alternative to aggressive and that he behaves that way when he is passionate about something. But OP can leave the word passionate out of it then. “You come on strong” might be received better than “you’re aggressive”.

                That said, I also said the feedback should include how that behavior affects others. It’s highly unlikely that he will hear passionate as a good thing when it’s followed up with a criticism about how it negatively impacts coworkers.

            2. TL -*

              Because the behavior doesn’t have a positive side.
              It’s one thing to take say, an intern, and tell her, “You’re passionate! I love your passion! But you need to listen and learn a little more before taking up so much time in meetings with your questions!” because there is a positive side to their behavior. But when the behavior is like this, it needs to be shut down completely, which means there should be nothing in the feedback that suggests there is a positive side.
              For the overall review, positive and negative things need to be noted, but with completely unacceptable behavior, there’s no need to add in any softeners. It’s unacceptable. It needs to stop. There’s no upside.

              1. NewishAnon*

                I see the upside as getting someone to hear and absorb what is being said, rather than becoming defensive and not really hearing anything. At least for the first time anything is discussed.

                I also am not sure that the OP described completely unacceptable behavior. “Wound really tight” and “generally not a great coworker” are not completely unacceptable. “Very aggressive on issues that don’t call for it”: Does that mean there are issues that do call for it? If so, how bad could the aggressive behavior be? “Throws me under the bus” could be perceived and I need to hear more about it before I call it completely unacceptable. It could be something like not speaking up when he should and silently allowing OP to take the blame or it could be blatantly attributing failures to OP when he shouldn’t be. He could be trowing OP under the bus about something small like forgetting to send an email or it could be blaming the OP for the total failure of a project. Neither are good, one is much worse.

                1. TL -*

                  I think the histronics are a huge deal – especially if coworkers are noting and talking about them! (Throwing under the bus is also a big deal, if the mistakes are truly both of theirs. I would become hugely frustrated with someone who consistently couldn’t admit mistakes.)

                  You can have someone hear and absorb what’s being said without sweetening it. Being direct about a problem, and clear that the conversation is only about that problem, doesn’t mean you’re being mean about it. But it does mean, done correctly, that you walked away with them clearly understanding what the issue is.

            3. Mister Pickle*

              NewishAnon: because like it or not, there are many people who won’t even recognize that they are being told that they have an issue unless it is unambiguously phrased in a negative manner. I don’t have time to track down references, but this kind of thing has come up here on AAM before.

              Not everyone is like this. But given what OP has written, it sure sounds like his co-worker is.

    2. MaryMary*

      I think it’s the manager’s job to figure out how to deliver the feedback, and it’s OP’s job to give candid feedback. Exactly how OP phrases the feedback and how blunt she wants to be is debatable, but in terms of softening the message or using a “feedback sandwich,” that’s up to the manager.

      I know a lot of people are fans of the feedback sandwich (which is where you say something positive, then slip in the constructive/negative feedback, and end by saying something else positive), but I’ve heard that it is not effective. People only hear and remember the good things. Instead of “You’re great at A, but you really need to do better at B. However, you do a great job with C.” people hear “You’re great at A, blah blah blah, and great at C.” and walk away thinking how great they are.

      1. Anonnynanny*

        I think it’s the manager’s job to figure out how to deliver the feedback, and it’s OP’s job to give candid feedback.


      2. NewishAnon*

        But the OP was asked to provide feedback and was uncomfortable with doing it. This was a suggestion for how OP could do it and possibly feel more comfortable with the task at hand.

        I think it depends on how you use the feedback sandwich. If you throw it all together in one run on sentence, the negative feedback is likely to get lost or go unheard. But if you discuss each piece of feedback individually it can be successful. Start off with something positive so the person isn’t feeling defensive. Discuss that and ask the person what they think about it. When you’re done with that, move on to something negative. Discuss it and give the person hearing it an opportunity to respond, ask questions and make suggestions on how they believe they can improve. Then finish up with something positive and repeat the same process.

        I think it’s beneficial to leave someone feeling up not down and like they have the tools and understanding to fix the issues brought up.

        1. Jessa*

          The issue with a feedback sandwich is that a truly awful coworker will probably only hear the bread parts.

          1. NewishAnon*

            I don’t think that is true if it’s done right. I think it’s important to include reflection as part of feedback. You tell someone they are doing something poorly and ask them to reflect on that. Why do they think that is happening? What do they think can be done about it? Etc. And discuss possible ways to improve, or if necessary simply say that something has to stop. Ask them what they plan to implement and change now that they have had their review and hear it in their own words. Even if positive feedback is discussed, I don’t see how someone can walk away from that without hearing the negative.

            Honestly, if the only way to deliver effective negative feedback is to eliminate all positive feedback from the discussion then the problem is with how feedback is being delivered. Or that is a truly terribly employee that needs something more than feedback, like a PIP, which I think is not the norm as far as feedback goes.

            I mean this in terms of overall reviews, like a year end review, not for specific incidents that need immediate reprimands.

          2. OP*

            Amen. The feedback sandwich has been discredited as an approach. In this case, softening is not the issue, but having him note that his outrageous behavior has no place in a work setting.

        2. TL -*

          I think it depends on the issue. Some behaviors you only want to temper, or sometimes you have an issue you really need to work on with an otherwise great employee, so a feedback sandwich would be great for making it clear that you are otherwise very happy with them.

          But, honestly, I hate receiving feedback sandwiches. If I’m doing something wrong, let me know and I’ll fix it. If I don’t know how to fix it, give me concrete steps to follow. Don’t sugarcoat it – I need to fix my problems so I can do my job correctly, not have my ego babied.

          1. NewishAnon*

            The feedback sandwich isn’t about sugar coating things. If OP was addressing a specific incident of aggressive behavior, then I agree, that should be clear, direct, and immediate. But OP was asked to provide feedback for a year end evaluation at a time when a specific incident isn’t the focus. This is about an overall picture. If there is really nothing positive to say, I agree, don’t make it up. And now that I understand how the 360 works, I guess I don’t see a point for OP to worry about wording in this particular case.

            However, what I am saying about giving feedback overall still stands. Perhaps I misunderstand but I have never been under the impression that if someone exhibits negative habits that we should only give feedback on that and forget about the good things they are doing. How is that effective feedback? It’s not actually helpful to someone to focus only on the negative.

            Each bit of feedback should be discussed separately, as it’s own bullet. Feedback should never be one run on sentence talked AT an employee. There should be a conversation about each point WITH the employee, that requires them to think about and respond to the feedback they’ve been given. If that is done, it would be hard to sugar coat negative feedback and for the employee to leave thinking that only good things were talked about. It would also be hard to completely demoralize your employee, leaving them devoid of hope or the feeling that they are doing anything right.

            I was never suggesting that negative feedback be hidden, just that people tend to respond better when the conversation is constructive and presented in a way that helps them feel confident in their ability to stop the behavior, make changes, and improve.

            1. TL -*

              For an overall picture, if there’s good and bad, both should get their own bullet points, absolutely, but the amounts should be relative to the amounts of good and bad with the coworker. And it sounds like the OP’s relationship has been mostly bad, so their review will be mostly bad.

              I don’t think the OP needs to do anything about that.

      3. rdf63*

        Don’t get frustrated and I’m glad that this topic was brought up the use of words like 360, feedback, communication…All focus on one thing which is basically how to soften and avoid real problems. Be candid about the issues and prepare it so the comments can’t be contested. I am familiar with 360 methods and it is ineffective because there is no privacy to your comments.

    3. Ethyl*

      It depends on how the whole thing is structured. Where I used to work, you picked people, they gave their feedback to your manager, and then the manager would condense all the feedback down into your review along with their assessment and your self-assessment. If there were particularly good or bad comments, sometimes those would get quoted directly with no attribution.

      As an aside, I really loved the 360 process. That was the only place I ever felt like the review process was really worthwhile, and probably not coincidentally, that workplace also had managers who took the most ownership of their teams — successes AND failures. That attitude trickled down to the team, and it was hands-down one of the most supportive and encouraging places I have ever worked. No success or failure was one person’s doing.

    4. Sabrina*

      Regarding how this works: I used to work for a company that did this. Your manager gave feedback, but you also requested it from a few of your coworkers as well. The feedback did not come back to the employee, it was in this computer program for that, only the manager would know who said what. You could not only ask one person for peer feedback

      1. LoFlo*

        I worked with one of these type of systems. It was the only time I got feed back and there no specifics given around what event caused negative comments. When asked for details, they didn’t exist. My manager could not identify one project that i had worked on in the last year. The results were ranked arbtaritly so it just ended up being a metric to justify a 1% raise.

        I was often ask to do 360 reviews on my peers, and I sent emails out side of the system to the requestor, so it was less likely that my comments were put into the tracking system that is monitored by the peers I was reviewing, ”

      2. Aussie Teacher*

        My husband’s work does this. You have the option of sending your review directly back to the coworker or to HR if you prefer. There are sections to comment on Strengths and Opportunities (for development/improvement). The ones he’s showed me that he’s received from co-workers have been really great (praise where it’s deserved and some well-thought out points for improvement).

  3. Adam*

    So according to the OP they don’t have to work with this colleague very often in the grand scope of their job. Maybe that’s why the worker wanted them to be in the 360? If his abrasive behavior is pretty universal perhaps he knew that he wasn’t going to get as glowing an assessment if he went to the people he works with more frequently.

    1. OP*

      Or he’s simply not aware of how he comes off. Or that we are the only two people in this same role under this manager–voila I am his only “peer” really narrowly defined.

      1. Alternative*

        I came here to say this, and am glad you thought of it too – he may be completely lacking self awareness. This could be the wake up call he needs. Wouldn’t that be great?

  4. illini02*

    Yeah, this is odd. When I worked somewhere with 360 evaluations, no one knew who else was doing the evaluations, so it was a lot easier to be anonymous and speak in generalities. Now, without knowing how many people are doing it, there is a very good chance that anything you say can be traced directly back to you. I think I would still do it though, and speak honestly about his issues. Maybe you and him see things differently. There was discussion on one of the questions about how what yelling and aggression can vary from person to person. He may not think he is being aggressive and yelling at you, and you do. If nothing else, this could open a dialog. Now, it very well could make things worse too, however once management is aware of it, I would assume there would be a bit more watch being placed on him.

    1. SJP*

      +1 on this. I’d say very true about “however once management is aware of it, I would assume there would be a bit more watch being placed on him”

  5. Jeanne*

    What a mess. I wonder if he picked you because you work together so little. Maybe he figured you wouldn’t say much. I think you should follow Admin’s advice. Then write your sentences carefully to make it as professional as possible, not angry or scared. I don’t think it can make your relationship much worse.

    Then talk to your manager about future projects. Can you get permission to walk away when he’s abusing you? Or take the conversation to a third party’s office? Or whatever your manager would prefer. The whole situation is not acceptable.

  6. HR Manager*

    Was it his selection and not his managers? When we did a true 360 for our employees we wanted to invest in, the manager ‘encouraged’ him/her to pick a few of the people with whom the employee had difficult relationships with. That’s the whole purpose of the exercise – to get honest feedback from all around so that develop areas could be recognized.

    A lot of folks say they do 360 reviews these days because they involve feedback from peers, and not just the manager, but it’s not the same 360 process that a trainer or learning & development org might help facilitate. Either way – if your culture has a history of honest feedback, or if the manager seems sincere in wanting to improve the employee, I’d give the honest feedback. Circumventing the exercise only means letting the aggravation continue.

  7. Sans*

    A question for AAM or anyone else who knows – does the employee always get to pick who does their 360? Years ago at an old employer, everyone had to pick 3 people to give a 360 review. It was anonymous in that you didn’t know which of the three people it was coming from. We were told to pick peers within our dept, and also people outside of our dept that we worked with. I picked three people within those guidelines. My manager overruled my choices and picked three others — two people within our dept that were in her clique and one person outside of the dept that knew her better than they knew me, and who didn’t work with me nearly as much as who I had chosen.

    My old manager was the kind of manager who had her favorites and treated her dept like a high school clique — and I was on the outside, not deemed to be one of the cool kids. So she basically set me up by choosing “her” people who would say what she wanted. Has anyone else had their choices overruled in a 360? Even if she hadn’t stacked the deck to screw me over, is this really how it should be done?

    1. HR Manager*

      No – see my comment above. Manager’s I’ve worked with do ‘encourage’ certain employees. I once had a manager who had a contentious relationship with an executive. She did not want his feedback on the 360, convinced it would be unfair and overly negative. Her manager had to sit down and explain why he really wanted her to be on-board with this executive’s feedback. While she did consent, it would not have happened without her executive head pushing for it. Her only other option would be to scrap the 360, which mean her opportunity for executive leadership would go out the window with it. Anyone aspiring for an executive position had to do one with us.

    2. Adam*

      Sounds to me like your manager was someone who shouldn’t be managing people.

      My experiences with 360s are limited, but at my current company the only ones who have 360 reviews are managers. Their direct reports were open to provide feedback on them (voluntarily) and it was supposed to be 100% anonymous. I didn’t participate so I’m not sure how it actually went.

      1. HR Manager*

        Typical process would be to not have names associated with the feedback given. It’s a report that will remove names, and randomize the comments given to the questions, so reviewer #1 isn’t always the first feedback you see. 360 involves a good number of people, so in theory it can be anonymous. Now if one rights how the employee was terrible in xxx project, that might give away who is doing the writing.

    3. cuppa*

      I’ve only written one and not received one. In ours, HR selected the people who were reviewed and the people who were writing the reviews. I was under the impression, but not positive because I didn’t receive one, that the person being reviewed didn’t know they were being selected until they received the comments.

    4. MaryMary*

      We did 360 evals at OldJob. Employees could pick who their review went to, but managers had final say and veto power. So if you chose someone you didn’t work closely with (particularly if you had a friendly relationship with them), you manager could call BS and make you choose someone you worked more closely with. And to HR Manager’s point, a manager could tell an employee to send an evaluation to someone with whom the employee had a difficult relationship, or maybe had worked through a particularly difficult project, even if that isn’t someone the employee works with every day.

    5. Episkey*

      I’ve received one at a former company previously and I did not get to choose who my reviewers/peers were at all. I actually don’t even know how they were chosen — it was anonymous to me, so I didn’t know who had been selected to provide feedback.

      1. Sans*

        Oh yeah, that company is long in my past! I hated high school when I was in it; I sure wasn’t interested in being back in that atmosphere decades later.

    6. Screwed*

      I’m so glad I’m not alone in this experience. This was my situation with Boss Larry, co-worker Mary, and Me (Jane).

      – Mary spends all day brown-nosing Larry.
      – Larry eats it up.
      – Mary treats me and other co-workers like garbage all day long. She and I CLEARLY do not get along.
      – Mary picks me to do a 360 performance review. She has the choice of any number of co-workers to choose from.
      – I provided her my feedback in an anonymous review. If I hadn’t chosen to do the review, that would’ve sent a message that I refused, and I would’ve gotten reamed for that too. That’s why I decided to go for it. My review was professional, not personal, and had very specific action items that would help Mary. improve. I tried to be nice.
      – Larry shows the anonymous review to Mary.
      – Larry reams me out privately for giving Mary a “bad” review.
      – Larry holds a team meeting and reams me out in public for it.
      – Mary gets promoted and gets a raise.

      Moral of the story – if you can’t get out of doing the review, and the corporate culture is such that your Mary’s gonna rule the roost anyway, save yourself a lot of time and effort and just put down something nice. Your Mary doesn’t deserve your constructive criticism and no one wants to hear it from you anyway. You can only hope that she’ll rise up on the Dilbert principle and get promoted until her incompetence becomes too much of a liability. Trust me, your Mary’s incompetence is NOT your cross to bear so release yourself of the burden. In my case, fast forward 3 years, my Mary just got demoted and my Larry just got FIRED! Yes, sometimes, there is justice.

  8. Kate*

    When I had to do a 360 as part of a leadership development course, my manager encouraged me to put down coworkers I’ve butted heads with in the past. 360 feedback is most helpful when you hear from a wide range of people– not just colleagues from different levels, but also different personalities and approaches. Of course, if you can’t trust him to handle candid feedback maturely, there’s no obligation to provide it. But he may have put you down specifically because of your experiences with him.

  9. Joey*

    Why not just say “I work with you so little I don’t think i am a good person to give you constructive feedback”?

    2-5%? He should be getting feedback from the people he works with regularly.

    1. MaryMary*

      Maybe he is. At OldJob we were supposed to send feedback requests to 2-3 peers. It could be that the coworker does’t work closely with very many people, or specifically wanted OP’s input in addition to the folks he does work with more regularly.

  10. Coelura*

    We do lots of peer reviews here at the end of the year. My people provide a list of people they’d like to participate & have asked them to participate. I choose some from that list and add a few of my own. The reviews are submitted in our system. I can see the reviews as the manager, but the employee cannot see the actual feedback. I try to have 7-10 people provide feedback so the individual is not able to easily figure out where certain feedback came from. Its a great system & highly valued. I require each person to identify reviewers in a 360 arc.

  11. Sutemi*

    In our organization, when soliciting feedback many managers explicitly include notes that they are open to receiving the feedback through different lines of communication. That is, either written feedback on the form or through in-person or phone conversations.

    This might be a conversation you can have with the co-workers’ manager rather than a written feedback, if it makes you more comfortable. Not having a written record and being able to judge her nonverbal cues may make it easier to give honest, useful feedback.

    I would practice a message that is as factual as possible, focusing on the impact his behavior has on your work.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    I don’t really understand these things because we don’t use them.

    Does it factor into this person’s formal appraisal of record? Or is it used as a professional development tool? I did a training course where I had to have 6-8 people do 360 inputs on me and then it churned out a list of my deficiencies and strengths and I worked with the instructor on addressing them.

    1. Joey*

      At some companies it does and others use it more as a managers tool to set goals. I see more problems when it is directly tied to an eval or raises. Most co workers would rather the manager own those decisions.

      1. Sans*

        Mine was directly part of my annual evaluation. And because she stacked the deck, I got the only bad review in 25 years of working and over 10 years at that company. After I left that company, I’ve never had a bad review again. So I’m thinking it’s not me. lol

    2. OP*

      In this case, the 360 feeds the performance evaluation. I guess it gives your manager more voices to base the evaluation on. It’s an odd hybrid.

    3. MaryMary*

      When I experienced a 360 review, it was used to give the manager more input, but the manager had final decision making power. For a lot of our roles, the people manager was not always the project manager (in some cases, the people manager was really only concerned with resource planning and people management). A manager may have little to no direct experience in how their direct reports were performing. We also had a team approach, with handoffs from team to team and between junior and senior level people. Someone could be delivering a good final product, but be a nightmare to work with within the team.

      We were also expected to ask multiple peers (and sometimes multiple junior people and multiple project managers) for feedback. Then a manager could better determine trends or follow up on outliers. I liked having 360 feedback, and with the way our teams were structured it would have been difficult to do performance reviews any other way. However, it was VERY time consuming. Time consuming for the managers, particularly if the feedback wasn’t consistent between respondents. And time consuming for people to respond to. By the time I was a project manager, I’d have 15 feedback requests (4-8 questions each) from people who had worked on pieces of my projects over the last year.

    4. Sabrina*

      At the company I worked with it was both, formal appraisal and also development. I was an Administrative Assistant and my manager was also one, though at a higher level. I didn’t really work with her on a day to day basis, I supported other people and teams who’s management structure I wasn’t part of. So really, without the peer feedback, my manager wouldn’t have been able to say much as far as how I was doing. The bad part was that since they weren’t my direct manager, sometimes they would save things for my yearly review. Things I’d been doing “wrong” for a whole year or they didn’t like, whatever.

  13. MaryMary*

    I agree with Alison’s suggestion to talk to your coworker’s manager. When you do, I’d also ask how she will incorporate your feedback into the coworker’s review. We did 360 feedback at OldJob. For a while, managers were expected to read through all the feedback submitted, identify trends, and summarize. For better or for worse, it was very time consuming for the managers. So the company changed expectations so that managers could quote feedback verbatim (although they were still expected to identify trends or themes). When the manager delivers the performance review, there’s a big difference between delivering feedback as: “Areas of Improvement – taking personal responsibility for errors and missed deadlines” and “Wakeen threw [a coworker] under the bus on project X, when he was actually the one who had a mathematical error in the table and consequently missed the phase 2 due date.”

  14. Not So NewReader*

    Boy, all this upset cannot possibly be good for this guy’s health. If I worked with him I would have health issues. I don’t blame you for not wanting to do this, OP, but I think Alison’s advice is great. I hope you let us know how it works out for you.

    1. OP*

      I do feel a level of pity for this person. Acting that way in a job is probably only 10% of how he reacts to his life. Honestly, my spouse has never expressed the level of anger my coworker has at me. Over nothing.

  15. Ann O'Nemity*

    When we did 360s, it was hard to keep it anonymous. You could usually tell who made what comment (based on tone, word choice, knowledge of particular circumstances, etc). And if the comments weren’t positive, resentment ensued. Meanwhile, it was unclear if the 360s were really being used to make any improvements whatsoever. Under this framework, individual employees had little incentive to give negative critiques. So while I agree with Alison’s advice to the OP as a general rule, I would also caution the OP to know your workplace, culture, and policies related to the 360. If giving honest but negative feedback is a lose/lose, refusing to give any feedback may actually be a safer choice.

    1. OP*

      And he really feeds off resentment. Which is why I wanted to address it face to face instead of through the 360. If he’s going to resent me further, I want it to be in support of him hearing my issues and trying to problem solve with me. I don’t want him to feel like I gave feedback to knife him in the back.

      1. Lizabeth*

        Keep in mind that some people will take it as a stab in the back no matter how it’s presented – in person or writing.

  16. puddin*

    I was given some advice about feedback that I keep in mind to this day:
    Feedback is a gift.

    So whether it is formal, informal, anonymous, direct, requested, or unsolicited it should be given and taken with the idea that it is given with the best of intentions and taken with appreciation. It is sometimes very difficult to do. But keeping this phrase in mind while I give/receive job performance feedback goes a long way to reducing anxiety.

    I heartily recommend providing clear and thoughtfully worded feedback. None of us can fix what we do not know is broken.

    1. Joey*

      Well I think if the op respected the co worker the “gift” would be a no brainer. The question though is more should she give a “gift” to someone she doesn’t respect.

      1. puddin*

        Even more so for someone who is struggling…The gift is that the work environment as whole will be elevated by working on development areas together and in earnest.

  17. Anonymous for this*

    I used to be the admin that managed a large company’s executive training, professional development, and 360s (reported directly to the VP who handled the execs.)

    A properly done, well-conducted 360 will aggregate and anonymize feedback from at least a dozen different peers (possibly up to 20, depending on the size, scope, and purpose of the organization and evaluation) and will not contain identifying information in the collated comments. (I helped remove some of that identifying information from near-final drafts. Related: if someone asks you to fill out a survey and guarantees anonymity for heaven’s sake do not write your own name in the comments.) Those peers will be both on the person’s team as well as people they work with on special projects or across functions.

    This person’s choice to ask the OP to participate seems smart, to me. This is indeed the feedback a 360 should provide — it’s to highlight strengths and weaknesses up and down the chain and across the organization (hence the “360”). If this person has trouble working across the organization in a horizontal sense, that’s something their manager has probably noticed, at least subconsciously, and this feedback could be the most valuable part of the process.

    1. Joey*

      It’s a review where you solicit input from those that work around you (360). Below, lateral, above, clients, etc.

      It’s basically asking those folks how you’re performing instead of merely relying on your supervisor to make the assessment

  18. Ann Furthermore*

    I think you should respond honestly, but as tactfully and diplomatically as possible. It could be valuable feedback, and it may help improve your relationship with him. And like you said, the way things are now they could not get much worse.

    I think the most important thing is for the feedback to be balanced. Can you think of anything good to say about this person? Is he knowledgeable about certain things? Is he responsive when you need something? If you start with the positive, and then address areas of improvement, the feedback is easier to digest.

    I recently did one for my boss. Now, she’s a fantastic manager, the best boss I’ve ever had. But she does have one habit that is disconcerting. She takes a “scorched earth” approach when someone leaves the team. When someone quits she takes it very personally, and tends to view them in a negative light. Sometimes all their contributions are forgotten or ignored. So this was something that I really wanted to address, and I thought for a long time about how to word it. I ended up saying that I’ve heard her say things about former team members that are completely different than my own personal experiences with those people. While I’m not privy to all of her dealings with them, it reminded me about there being 2 sides to every story with the truth usually residing somewhere in between.

    One of my co-workers also wanted to address this, and I helped her craft a response too. We came up with a comment that our manager works hard to create an environment of trust and loyalty because those things are very important to her. So when someone decides to move on, her disappointment about that can overshadow the work and contributions that person made.

    I think she did take that feedback to heart, because recently a former co-worker’s name came up in conversation, and she just made a comment in passing that “he had his own ideas about things,” and did not elaborate, which was a change.

  19. Howdy*

    That’s really the whole point to these things.

    The point of 360 reviews in the places I’ve worked that implemented them was more along the lines of someone in a corner office heard about them at an executive conference and “We’re going to do them now because all the cool companies do!” They were follow-on from our forays into One-Minute Management, Total Quality Management, 5S, MBO, Team-Based Management, Peak Performance, and Management By Walking Around (AKA “I don’t know what you do, but I’m goi9ng to tell you how to do it from your cubical door.”)

    1. DBAGirl*

      That’s been my experience too going back 20 years. It’s popular every so often.

      I’ve received them and the feedback was never a surprise.

      I’ve done them and when I am doing one for my boss I do not supply comments and I only supply the negative ratings for his/her worst lack of skills. I don’t want to be identified and I don’t accept the claim of “anonymity”.

      I don’t believe a 360 ever changes anyone’s behavior. There’s no incentive.

  20. OP*

    Thanks for your response, Alison, and everyone’s comments. There was something that came up where I was again thrown under the bus last week (simultaneous to getting this 360 request), so the time was ripe to address it before I saw this advice. Here’s what I did:

    1. Sent email responses to both issues (laying out what I thought went wrong and what I would want to see going forward), asking him to meet with me to discuss the proximate and overall working relationship issues. Sent copy to our manager to say I was going to meet with my coworker to discuss ongoing issues.
    2. Met and discussed the most recent issue and the barriers to our working together. I need to work with him on some level, so he needs to know that anger and yelling are something I can’t respond to. I needed him to know that I find his behavior (anger, etc.) and actions (manipulating situations and throwing me under the bus) to be problems. I feel like I can’t ask my manager to step in without having addressed the issue directly. Also, I feel ethically that I needed to say my concerns directly before I would report them in a 360 (which I declined to do for him).

    My goals were:
    1. To not be a doormat. I felt like I needed to calmly confront him about his actions.
    2. To hope that we could problem solve a better way to work together.
    3. To lay a foundation, in case I need to escalate my concerns in the future.

    1. I found out he’s even more paranoid and insulted by me than I thought. Over innocuous things I can’t even fathom someone being offended by.
    2. He lashes out after stewing over my supposed affronts. He leads from an emotional place and sees no problem with that.
    3. I realize that I can’t make this better, most likely. I will continue to give a wide berth and will raise the issue of his pattern of behavior and actions with my manager. I need to explicitly share my manager that I see a pattern of being mistreated here by my coworker. Not that it will change it, but that I want to be on the record that he is generating drama and that it is not my work that is doing so. My manager likely already knows this, but I need him to here this feedback from me.

    Thanks again. Sorry if the response is long-winded.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      *sigh* So what I’m getting from this is that this person can’t deal with honest feedback.

      I apologize if I’m a little vague on the entire 360 process, but – maybe this is really something of an opportunity? I think if I were in your shoes, I’d enlist my manager’s help. Level with him. Write up the 360 stuff as honestly and objectively as I can and then ‘wordsmith’ it with my manager to make sure it is indeed fair and honest. Will the feedback help you to work with him better? I don’t know – it sounds like things are pretty bad already.

      That’s the thing: I’m looking at this and thinking that your problems didn’t begin with him asking for 360 feedback; your problems began when this person first started with the histrionics and general PITA behavior. I’m assuming that what you ultimately want is either A) to not work with this person anymore or B) for this person to stop being difficult. So this feedback might be an opportune step on the path to A or B.

      1. Colette*

        I agree feedback is a good idea, especially if this coworker reports to a different manager. You know what he’s doing, your manager knows what he’s doing, he knows what he’s doing, … and his manager is out of the loop.

        1. OP*

          Our common manager might know what he’s like, but I need to bring the impact he is having on my work life to the manager, which I will do.

    2. Postscript*

      OP, thanks for the update. I see a lot of conflicts where there’s this fantasy or belief that “if the person just knew the effect of his behavior, he would change.” You were smart to realize it was important to address his behavior even though you suspected – and this suspicion was confirmed – that feedback did not change how he acts. Brava for doing this for your own self-respect, for the paper trail, etc. rather than simply with the idea that he would magically change.

    3. Illini02*

      Thanks for the update. To me this comes down to 2 different styles of working, as well as miscommunication. You think he doesn’t respect you and is too aggressive. He see’s you as insulting. Its possible from his point of view YOU are the aggressor and he is just responding in his way. Of course each person sees things from their perspective. However, I think maybe both of you could take something away from this meeting, besides that he sucks. Maybe you can also look at why he is insulted by what you are saying. Who knows, its possible others see this side of you as well, he just handles it different.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Not quite sure where you’re getting this interpretation. I mean, I get that the co-worker feels insulted, but I don’t get where the idea comes from that the OP really is insulting–and that the truth has to be in the middle, which I think can be a really harmful fallacy. And no matter what he’s annoyed with, he’s not behaving professionally with all these outbursts.

        1. OP*

          He exploded at me in a meeting because he knew what a vendor did because he had worked for said vendor in the past. Imagine…”XYZ can offer us this file in pdq format…” “I KNOW WHAT THEY DO! I WORKED THERE FOR X YEARS!!” Insert awkward, awkward pause. Apparently I had insulted him by not knowing where he had worked or what he knows. That’s a great reason to YELL in a meeting with others.

          I don’t insult people I work with. What he is seeing is paranoid and not rational. I can’t avoid insulting him, since any communication can be filtered through crazy insecurity/simultaneous self-aggrandizement.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, it’s kind of like the post yesterday about the manager who starts yelling. That puts her in the wrong no matter how frustrating the other person is.

        3. Mister Pickle*

          I concur. This was to some extent covered by AAM not long ago in her column about “Problem Employees”, and how you cannot just split the blame 50 / 50. If someone robs a bank, nobody assumes that the bank needs to share the responsibility and blame. Likewise, if a normal person in the workplace has to deal with an asshole, it’s not valid to assume that both parties are at fault.

    4. Brigitte*

      I was recently reading a passage out of “The New Consumer Mind” that addresses narcissists in society. The book focuses on customer viewpoints and interactions, but I think the insight is relevant here.

      Paraphrasing, because the book is a friend’s, and it’s not in front of me:
      – A narcissist engages emotionally with perceived slights and insults. She is completely concerned with how interactions affect her, and she won’t approach situations objectively.
      – In dealing with a narcissist, it’s important to be clear and confident, never defensive. A narcissist will jump on any opportunity to prove that you’re slighting her.
      – On your part, keep conversations as professional as possible, and do not engage in the arguments a narcissist will try to draw you into.

      We can’t know if your coworker is a narcissist and diagnosing via Internet is never nice, but I think this is a good guide for your interactions with your colleague going forward. Sorry you’re in this position.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for this. I can’t diagnose him either, I can just decide how iam going to react. His craziness does not justify me reacting the same way. His extreme behavior has actually pushed me to calmly consider how I should react. I’ve sought out the counsel of a few friends who work in similar roles before asking Alison, as well.

    5. Takver*

      Reading suggestion: The workplace violence chapter in Gavin de Becker’s *The Gift of Fear.* Obviously I’m not saying this guy is going to turn violent, but the book does a good job of profiling the kind of person who broods over imagined slights and erupts in bursts of anger. It may be helpful in understanding the way he perceives things. It would also probably be helpful for your manager, especially if they ever fire him.

      1. OP*

        GOF is great and something you always remember. I read it a while ago. While I don’t think physical violence is an issue, he may just either continue to sabotage me or leave the job like he left his last 4 jobs.

    6. RP*

      It sounds like you did the best you could and you’re right that your manager needs to hear it from you. If they don’t then that’s just plausible deniability (“They haven’t complained about it so it must not be that bad.”).

  21. Preston*

    What makes him a abrasive? Some people are just short and communicate with just facts. These people tend to like bullet points LOL.

    That all being said. Ask him why he picked you. That might provide some insight.

    1. OP*


      1. Looks angry/ready to blow when you discuss work matters. It makes you feel anxious just being around him.
      2. Actually blows up and yells at me, at others over things you might correct or discuss with someone. Or sometimes over the fact that we can’t read his mind or don’t know what he knows.
      3. Is dismissive of others and what they know. This is killer since he works in a matrixed environment and has to get work done through project teams and not underlings. Only he can know anything. Only he can be right.
      4. Is short and often condescending in how he speaks to coworkers.

      I am all about the logical bullet points and being factual. He’s ruled by his inner emotional storm and lashes out.

      1. Preston*

        Wow, wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know what to tell you. Do you know much about him outside work? Has been at the company long ? Sounds like he has some serious issues.

        1. OP*

          I don’t know how he got this role. It baffles me since there is such a bad fit between his personality and work approach and what needs to get done.

  22. meetoo*

    OP, please do talk to your manager about this as soon as you can. This person is obviously not going to change and may escalate. Your manager needs to know so they can do their job. With someone irrational and potentially manipulative he may be trying to throw you under the buss in more ways now.

  23. NE*

    I worked for a company that sold 360 assessments. I see the OP declined to do the 360 (good choice, imo), but just in case it helps someone else:

    Anonymous feedback is not anonymous. Even if it isn’t obvious where the feedback came from based on your writing style, it would be possible for the consultant to find out who gave specific feedback. It’s not ethical and it’s only done unofficially, but it happens, especially when the feedback is strongly negative.

    Your manager may have added you to the 360 without your coworker’s knowledge. The invite could still look like it came from your coworker.

    From what I saw, many people leave all open ended questions completely blank. I’d say more than half leave negative questions blank. This puts you at even more risk when providing negative feedback, as one of my coworkers learned the hard way one year when she was the only who who provided negative feedback about our boss!

  24. sam*

    I am totally against the 360 process. The 360 process creates cowardness. If you want to give negative feedback then have the balls to give the feedback to the person privately and do not wait until the end of the year in his or her yearly evaluation. This passive aggressive behavior will result in resentment and dysfunctional teamwork. The coworker will have more respect for you as a coworker. If can not give negative feedback in person then have you thought that the problem might be you!!

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