I’m upset about my anonymous peer feedback results

A reader writes:

Our division consists of eight teams, each with their own manager. Each team manager reports into the division head, Alexa. I am the manager of one of these teams.

About three weeks ago, Alexa started a peer feedback exercise over email. This was a request to answer five behavioral-type questions (what they do/don’t do well, leadership style, etc) about each of our peers, and to return the feedback in reply to her. So, I received seven different email requests from Alexa — one each for my seven peers — and I replied with what I thought was my most helpful, candid feedback.

Today, Alexa scheduled a meeting for us to review the results of the feedback exercise, and to my horror she pulled up a spreadsheet with all the comments my peers had supplied pasted in word-for-word, with no names attached to them. I was asked to read it through, and as I did I felt myself getting tearful as many of the comments I felt were overly critical and unjust, and I didn’t know who they came from. We have a bit of a dysfunctional management team and I suspect some of the comments were politically-motivated.

I did not anticipate that the comments from this exercise would be shared in their exact form, and worse yet that they would be shared anonymously. I left our meeting feeling very attacked and suspicious of my peers about who could say such harsh things. I also thought about the sincere comments that I myself had provided about others, and how I would have worded them in a softer way if I knew they were going to be shared in this form.

I communicated to Alexa that this is how I felt, and she let me know that I was the first person she’s had the feedback meeting with and that the ill consequence of this wasn’t intended. I requested for her to share who had supplied each comment but this hasn’t happened yet.

I’m now left feeling distrustful of my peers in the management team, and also doubtful of myself given I can’t follow up on any of these comments without knowing who has given the feedback. I feel as though I generally receive critical feedback well, and I want to use this for development in the way it was intended, but the way this has been delivered just doesn’t feel right.

Oh nooooo.

That’s not how this is supposed to be done!

If a manager gathers feedback from someone’s peers, they need to be very clear with people providing feedback about how it will be used. Will it be anonymous? Summarized or presented word-for-word? Generally it makes the most sense for the manager to synthesize the feedback and present key themes and takeaways — not just shove the transcripts of what everyone said at you and be done with it. That’s especially true when any of the feedback is critical.

Alexa messed this up badly.

But the solution isn’t for you to push to know who said what. I understand why you want to know, but that would be making an already bad situation worse. If people gave feedback on the assumption that it would be anonymous (which is usually/often the case with peer feedback), it’s not right to remove that anonymity after the fact.

The only move that makes sense here is to urge Alexa to use your experience as the impetus to change how she does this exercise with the people after you. Point out that seeing people’s feedback word-for-word and without context (context like how often they work with you or how good their judgment is or what political dynamics might be in play) was demoralizing and unhelpful, and suggest that for future meetings she instead weigh the feedback herself, seek more context if needed, and decide what is worth presenting to each person and how.

That’s her job, after all. She’s not, like, a mail deliverer, just there to drop off some (awful) mail to you (a slam book, really). Her job is to understand the feedback, seek out more information if it’s not clear or it might be biased or missing important context, weigh it based on what she knows of the sources and the context, and decide what’s important to present to you. She needs to do that work in order to be able to own the feedback she’s presenting (and to work with you on anything that needs work).

As for the feedback itself, now that it’s been dumped in your lap: You don’t really need to know who it came from in order to process it and act on it. It’s certainly better to weigh the source and context, but even if you can’t do that, you can take it in and act on it (to some extent, at least): Does any of it resonate with you? Or make you realize something something you do/have done is being misinterpreted and could benefit from a different approach or just a conversation with someone? Or if it seems totally off-base, that itself tells you there’s a real disconnect going on somewhere that you’ve got to tackle. You can also ask Alexa (if she’s reasonably competent, aside from this) to help you sort through it and figure out how to process it.

But this is a mess, and not how it should have happened.

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonymousButWhy*

    My last company did this too. Every 6 months they chose 1 employee who would be the recipient, and each coworker would provide anonymous feedback on a sheet filled with questions. At the end, they’d gather up the sheets and give them all to the feedback recipient and of course they were upset, hurt, angry – who wouldn’t be? I made sure my feedback comments were kind and “middle of the road” since I knew she would end up seeing them. I left that job just glad I was never the target of that exercise!

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      “Every 6 months they chose 1 employee who would be the recipient…”

      This is some weird Hunger Games shit.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            When I was 18 and after my first year of college, I worked on a construction site with a group of about 30 18-19-year-old fellow college students and we had that exercise there. Team meeting, they would call your name, you stand up, and your peers tell you to your face what they think about their work. Come to find out, the 18yo me was terrible at construction work. And my peers did not hold anything back. We had this meeting in the middle of our 2-month construction project and I was lowkey depressed for the remaining month. I could not get over the public st0ne-pelting. Everyone else was hanging out, making out, dating each other and so on and I just couldn’t. I’d just get up, eat, go to work, come back to where we stayed, eat, go straight to bed, no socializing, no nothing. I’m still FB friends with one guy who worked there with me (who hadn’t provided any feedback at that meeting), and when I built a retaining wall in my yard last spring, you better believe I tagged him in the photos and asked if he thought I’d shown improvement in my trench-digging and bricklaying skills. He replied with something about my memory being too good and he has a point; it’s been almost 35 years. But really, how are you supposed to forget?

            1. little mystic*

              But really, how are you supposed to forget?

              Textbook bullying: the bullies forgot it by the end of the summer. You live with it your entire life.

              I’m really sorry you went through this :(

              1. Mama Bear*

                Even though it’s been 35 years, it obviously still stings. I’m sorry the company treated you so poorly and your friend can’t acknowledge that it was traumatic.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          That is EXACTLY what this sounds like. One poor soul is chosen, and everyone else participates in annihilating them.

    2. Katie the other Fed*

      This is what I would do too. The fact that the coworkers took this opportunity to berate their coworkers says a lot about this company.

      1. Fikly*

        Berate is reading a lot into it.

        We don’t know the wording. All we know is that there was feedback, and we don’t even know that there wasn’t any positive feedback.

        1. Mellow*

          Yeah, the OP feels hurt and angry because the feedback was just, you know, feedback.

          Come on. I REALLY don’t understand the responses on this blog that doubt the LWs.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            People feel hurt and angry over “just feedback” *all the dang time*. It’s happened to me before; it’s probably happened to you too.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Plus, we’re nested under a comment about another company altogether. My point still stands, though.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            I would expect someone to phrase feedback in a much softer way if it were going directly to the person in question vs to a third party who would digest it and pass on key points. It’s very normal to be upset by honest feedback, especially if it’s delivered in a blunt impersonal manner. Not ideal… but normal.

      2. little mystic*

        Depending on what they were told, IDK? I’ve gotten a few 360 requests and I was assured that nothing I wrote would go directly to them. I’ve been honest as to their work as I’ve seen it. Not nasty, but, like, if they don’t use the help desk system when I’ve asked them to 100 times, that’s mentioned.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          Agreed. If I assume that all the feedback is going to filtered through the manager, what good is it to sugar coat?

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          I think there’s a bit of a difference between “Cynthia doesn’t use the help desk system as required” and the ‘politically motivated’ comments that LW felt she received.
          She also specifically said she felt they were unjust. If “Cynthia never uses the help desk system” really means “Cynthia didn’t use the help desk system last week (but had been using it for the two weeks prior)”, I’d probably feel the comments were unjust as well.

        3. Daisy*

          I thought it was interesting that OP characterised her own harsh comments as ‘sincere’. Why are her colleagues’ criticisms insincere?

          1. Sparrow*

            I think the other thing OP should keep in mind is that she herself says that she would’ve worded things more kindly had she known her coworkers would be reading her exact language. I’m sure that’s the case for some of her coworkers at well.

            I think the directness of the language can make it hard to process right away, but it’s very possible they (like the OP) had some genuine and legitimate criticism that just wasn’t presented in a very constructive way because it was intended for a different audience. I hope OP will give it some time and re-review the feedback once she’s able to approach it a bit more objectively.

    3. Autumnheart*

      Yikes! Choosing one person to receive anonymous feedback, while nobody else is subjected to this process, seems like a bizarre way to provide performance feedback, not to mention morale and cohesiveness in a team.

      My company has historically asked for peer reviews, but a) participation was entirely voluntary, b) they encouraged people to review those with whom they worked closely, and c) apparently my coworkers are a lot nicer than some people’s, damn. Even the negative comments I ever received were phrased constructively–I can only think of one that wasn’t.

      1. Massmatt*

        Not to mention, they only do one employee every six months? Unless this is a two-person operation (lol) or they have other reviews also that is very little feedback.

        My partner’s company incorporates 360 reviews and it’s really useful, but the managers there do the work and quote useful or constructive things from the raw info, they don’t just hand the employees a burn book.

        The way this company did this sounds awful.

      2. ClinicallyDistracted*

        My office has peer and self-reviews as part of our annual process. What I do is highly collaborative with other teams, and while I consult with my manager on a higher strategic level, I hardly work directly with him on the nuts and bolts unless there’s a problem. Plenty of my small projects bypass him and go directly to the account executive, so getting feedback from the people that I work with on a daily basis is a good way for him to gauge what is actually going on with my work.

        But he synthesizes everything and also takes my own self-reflection into account. As one *should*.

        For the most part, it seems like my coworkers are pretty nice and I can accurately predict their criticisms of my work a mile away. (I’m ADHD and dyslexic. My time management and spelling is an on-going struggle and coworkers have varying levels of patience for it.)

        But I’d NEVER want to see what they have to say about me unfiltered with no actual organization or agenda. That just seems like a way to brew distrust.

        1. Prof. Kat*

          I was a student manager at my college job, and my boss did the opposite: I was required to compile all the unfiltered comments about each person into a single document and hand it over to them. I tried, repeatedly, to explain how this type of evaluation was supposed to work, that the comments were supposed to *inform* the overall evaluation, not by copied and pasted directly into it, without taking into account context and grudges and personality differences (of which there were many, because college + bad boss = hot mess).

          I filtered the HELL out of those evaluations. I was not going to expose people to that nonsense. Ugh.

    4. AnonymousButWhy*

      Yea I guess some external company does this type of “review” for organizations, and they wanted a membership at our company, so in exchange for a free membership they let the company/woman run the review once every 6 months. So weird because it doesn’t even seem like it was done professionally!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        This type of thing is a whole business model.

        1) Come up with a “system” of some kind (e.g. classifying people as one of the Platonic solids (cube, pyramid, octahedron, etc) / a colour / a season / whatever it is based on their answers to some set of questions to assess their personality characteristics etc……. a new method of time management or project management ……. a new way to get feedback on employees… or whatever)
        2) The sales process and sending one of your ‘training consultants’ out to implement it at the company
        3) Profit.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Ah, I just re-read it and I think what you are saying is that in exchange for a membership at your company, they agree to the external company doing this kind of review on a “sample” employee (for want of a better word) every 6 months so they pick someone – and normally the process would be more frequent than that. In which case my comment above doesn’t really apply here, but is still a valid assessment of many of these “which geometric shape are you?” systems.

        1. little mystic*

          I really wish “which geometric shape are you” was hyperbole but I’ve had to go through it two years in a row and I haaaaaate it.

          Fun internet quiz, sure! Psycoanalyzing me at work? alkjsd;flakjds;lfkajsd no.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      ” I can’t follow up on any of these comments without knowing who has given the feedback”

      I don’t think knowing who gave the feedback is necessary.

      Look for common threads – things that more than one person said you could improve in. Think hard about them, and if they could be true and you want to improve in that area, then try to do so.

      1. Minimax*

        The big problem with anonymous is that “themes” may literally be one person answering similarly across multiple questions….

    6. Wine Not Whine*

      My company tried 360 reviews… Once. It was poorly implemented; managers were asked about support people, but support people weren’t asked for feedback about anyone. (So, obvious inequity.)
      Most of what I received was bland, innocuous, and essentially meaningless. The remainder (anything that wasn’t entirely positive) was presented as “anonymous” quotes. The problem is, our company is small enough that I could easily identify exactly who said what, and what specific incident they were referring to. Even “better,” the reviewers were either not given a timeframe, or chose to ignore it; most of the specific events that sparked comment were a year or more old and had long since been resolved.
      I told my manager I would give the comments the consideration they deserved, and left it at that.

      1. Fikly*

        That’s not a 360 review. If the reviews are only coming from the top down, that’s just a performance eval from supervisor to supervisee.

        1. Allonge*

          This! It’s called 360 cause it’s supposed to be from all around! How can people miss this, really?

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Wow, it’s like a slam book for the workplace. I’d have hoped those died out by the end of junior high.

    8. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I think 360 reviews are just something someone came up with to make money selling it to companies. And the companies that buy into it are suckers.

  2. LQ*

    I think you mentioned one of the key things in your note here OP. If you’d known they would be shared word for word you would have softened them a bit. You might have said the positive stuff too if the message only solicited negative things.

    I think it’s reasonable to think that your peers thought this too and to try to understand that you may be missing the kind things they would have included had they known how this would be shared.

    They may have been political or petty or personal but you want to find the things that are of value.

    This doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt. (I’ll never forget the person who said “LQ isn’t a leader, she just does SharePoint.” on my own 360 review.) But you can try to find the broad strokes and let the rest go.

    If Alexa isn’t helpful for this and you can find a professional friend you can lean on they may be able to help you sort through this as well. Someone who is a mentor and supports you might be able to help you toss aside the sillily bad comments and focus on the valuable ones.

    1. SimplyTheBest*

      I came here to say this exact same thing. OP, if you yourself were more harsh in your assessments than you would have been had you known colleagues would be reading it word for word, you can give your peers the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s true for them as well. And assume they’re reading your comments with the same feelings of horror and dismay.

      1. Not a cat*

        I worked for a company that did a 360 of the V-level. They then required the VPs to review the feedback with their team and whatever corrective actions they planned to take. However, they told us the feedback was anonymous when it clearly was not. Flash forward to my VP calling out each person who made the various comments on a department call. I am SO glad my remarks were vanilla comments about vanilla. Trust. No. Corporate.HR.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          I’d be careful about hating on HR here. Part of the challenge with individual feedback is that even when it’s allegedly anonymous. it can still be easily identifiable through contextual details. Then, if they edit out potentially identifying contextual details and examples, the feedback becomes less useful and actionable.

          I’m not in HR, but I am in a position where I do get to read a lot of verbatim comments without names attached. Even they they’re anonymous, there’s often enough detail to make a very educated guess as to which functional area a respondent is likely from, and working with a small sample, I can probably figure out which individual provided that feedback without much effort.

    2. Koala dreams*

      That’s what I was thinking, too. Since you wrote critical comments for others, you can imagine the intention of the people who wrote those comments to you. It would have been nice if someone had summarised them for you, but since nobody did, you’ll have to do it yourself. Trust your own judgement.

      I also get the sense that maybe you see your coworkers in a more harsh light than is reasonable. When you read their comments, you imagine them being angry and mean. But when you remember yourself writing comments that were critical of others, you were not angry or mean, just honest and trying to do your best with the task given to you. It would help if you can imagine your coworkers being the same. They were also given that task. They also didn’t know how their comments were going to be used. Maybe it can help you to put those comments into perspective.

  3. Roscoe*

    While I agree that it just have been more explicit up front with how it is being used, I kind of disagree about it being word for word. The problem comes that when someones words are summarized (or sanitized) by someone else, you don’t necessarily get the full account. Its like the telephone game. Granted, if its just mean spirited, I get it. But if someone says “Jane routinely gets things to me no less than 3 days late” and its summarized as “You should work on getting things to others in a more timely manner” I don’t think that really gives the severity of the issue people have.

    I’ve done 360 reviews, and I’m pretty sure it was a word for word what people said. I appreciated hearing exactly what people thought, even if I didn’t know who said what.

    There is being candid, and being cruel. But if the stuff was candid and not cruel, I think adults should be able to handle that.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      At the very least, I think the people providing feedback absolutely need to be told if their feedback is going to be passed on word for word, or if it’s going to be synthesized. And the person collecting the feedback has a responsibility to check it over, and filter it for vindictiveness and tactlessness as well.

      Presenting negative feedback in a manner that’s tactful enough for the recipient to hear the message without getting defensive or hurt, clear enough to be understood and acted on, but still firm enough to be listened to, is a real skill, and one that can be difficult for managers to learn. Expecting it of all your employees is unrealistic. I know that if I’m expected to give verbatim feedback to a peer (or manager), it’s going to take me a lot longer to figure out how to word it than if I know it’s going to be filtered and reworded. And I would definitely be wary of negative feedback if I though there were any chance that it could be traced back to me (by identifying details in how I write for example).

      I’ve certainly worked with a lot of people who might be good at their jobs, but were very opinionated and could be cruelly scathing when evaluating other people behind their backs.

      Processing a set of raw opinions into a useful review is the kind of thing I expect a manager to be doing, rather than passing over a batch of statements verbatim. They can look for patterns, the severity of complaints, or if a single person has issues. And just because someone said something doesn’t mean it needs to be passed on – this is true in business situations as well as social situations ones.

      1. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Yeah, if you’re going to solicit peer reviews, you really need to filter them (not necessarily summarize though if you don’t want). These things can turn into petty gripe-fests in the wrong hands, which isn’t productive and promotes a culture of finger pointing.

      2. Adultiest Adult*

        +1 million to “just because someone said something doesn’t mean it needs to be passed on!”

      3. Mr. Tyzik*

        You’ve really hit the head of the situation. People need to know what happens with their feedback ahead of time. I did a 360 last year and found it very helpful. I got verbatim comments. Since people knew I would see what they wrote, they wrote it respectfully and smartly, and I got some great ideas from what they contributed.

        Now, had they not known I would see the comments verbatim and written them without varnish, that could have been a sh!tshow.

    2. Minimax*

      I thought a big part of the 360 is that you get to choose who reviews you so you can trust the veracity of the feedback?

      Having everyone do it is just a recipe for “Mad you said no to his pet project Wakeen” to publicly lambast you.

      1. Morning Glory*

        My org doesn’t do 360 reviews, but your way also doesn’t make sense to me.

        If you can choose who gives feedback on your performance, you’re not going to choose the person who you let down by blowing a deadline for them, or who had to chase you down for weeks for a missing receipt – you’re going to choose people who will give a good review of your work. That’s more likely to cause a distorted view of your performance than your manager choosing who to reach out to.

        1. Ethyl*

          I worked at a place that did 360 reviews and we picked several people to give feedback but I don’t think that was like, binding or anything and your boss could go seek out other folks if they wanted. In my field, though, it was helpful because we would usually be working on several projects with several project managers and other folks, sometimes from different offices.

        2. Minimax*

          I disagree. There is a difference between choosing your reviewers based on your trust of their seriousness vs just cherry picking people you think will like you.

          Plus, lets say your division decided to cut a position and X work is no longer managed by you. This impacted Devons team. They are mad about this but the decision was made at the division level.

          Whats the point of having Devons vitriol all over your 365 review? What actions are you supposed to take from his complaints?

          365s arent performance reviews they are a feedback tool that are supposed to help you identify weaknesses and strengths.

          Just like a manager might not solicit feedback from everyone before making a decision the same is true of the well run 365s ive participated in.

            1. Vemasi*

              I think the operative point here is as Minimax said, it is a feedback tool not a performance review. There’s no benefit to cherry picking good reviews for yourself because there’s no punitive consequence to bad reviews. And as Ethyl says, if your manager thinks the people you’ve chosen or the feedback they’ve given isn’t useful, they could pull in other people. Or even if they don’t, if you aren’t interested enough in quality feedback to make good use of the tool, it would probably come to naught anyway, even if you received quality feedback.

        3. Indigo a la mode*

          I work in marketing for a variety of divisions within my company. When I got a 360, my maanger asked if there was anyone in particular whom I wanted to review me. I thought it made sense to have one person from each client team review me, and I picked the person in each department who had the most holistic view of my work, not necessarily because they knew and liked me the best, but because I thought it was fair. I think most professionals could be trusted to do that.

          In any case, the feedback I got closely mirrored the feedback I gave myself on my self-evaluation–both positive and negative. So even though it was a bit awkward to read my flaws from a few different points of view, it was actually nice to know that I’m self-aware on those points and don’t have a gaping blind spot.

          Even though it takes a while, I think 360s can really be great in a decent org.

      2. Roscoe*

        I think it can vary. When I did it, I didn’t get the choice. I just knew it was my manager, 3 of my peers (I had around 8) and a couple people I oversaw. But it wasn’t my choice. That said, in that situation, we all worked VERY closely together, so one person woudn’t have had significatly less interaction with me than anyone else.

      3. Pennalynn Lott*

        Back when I worked for The Largest Software Company in the World, we did 360 reviews. Random peers were selected, but you also got to pick two of your peers to review you.

        I clearly remember the time I picked a team member that I’d worked closely with that year. Like, almost tied at the hip. I figured if anyone could give my boss an honest assessment of me, it would be her. And she did. But literally only the negative things, down to really nit-picky stuff like, “Drinks a lot of water and takes too many bathroom breaks.” Whaaaat??

        I asked her about it afterward (the comments weren’t anonymized) and her response was that 360’s were an opportunity to “get it all out there” so the person could grow. When I asked why she hadn’t put into the review all the positive stuff she’d said about me during the year (to my face and to other team members) she said that since I was already doing that stuff well, it didn’t need to be mentioned.

        I don’t think I ever said anything of consequence to her after that. (“Sure is hot outside today, eh?”)

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          That is completely nuts, but not surprising. People can be super mean when they’re wielding a pencil.

    3. Annony*

      I think it depends on what the point of the review is. If it is to help the manager get a better picture of where the employee can improve, it is better if the employee doesn’t get a word for word rendition because they aren’t really the intended recipient. Personally, that is the the form I like. If it is meant to go directly to the employee, those instructions should be very clear before the form is filled out.

    4. andy*

      Word for word very likely means that recipient will know who wrote it. People have distinct phrasing and you can often guess quite well just from words, typos and sentence structure who wrote it.

    5. Jedi Squirrel*


      Alexa should be looking for some patterns. That’s part of effective management.

      If everyone says you should communicate better, that’s probably on you.

      If Karen says everyone should communicate better, that probably on Karen.

      “Dave microwaved fish and the breakroom smelled like Neptune’s butthole for a week” is an outlier that can be ignored—I’m pretty sure Dave got plenty of feedback about that on the day of the incident.

    6. Mary*

      If it’s going to be shared word-for-word, you should start off by training everyone in how to give useful feedback. Giving good, constructive feedback is a skill! You can’t just say to people, “give X feedback” and expect it to be useful, high-quality feedback that people can act on. Anyone who is in a position to give direct feedback to colleagues, whether they are senior or junior to them, should have some clear guidance in how it’s going to be used, some strong guidance on how it’s going to be used and guidance on which areas /skills / activities people want feedback on. Otherwise it’s going to be 90% bollocks, like when you are booked to run a workshop in a venue you have no control over and 85% of the comments are “this room was too hot/cold/bright/dull” and “the sandwiches weren’t very nice”.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*


        This always reminds me of people who leave bad reviews on Amazon because the shipping company damaged the package. You’re supposed to rate the quality of the product, not the quality of the shipment. But a lot of people don’t realize that.

    7. Leela*

      In some ways I’m okay with word for word for the reason you listed here, but it definitely should have been told to people up front if that was going to be the case, and I definitely think that Alexa should have delivered it after looking it over, checking it against what she knows about the person reporting and the person being evaluated, look for broad patterns, etc. Alexa could still do that while giving word for word feedback where necessary, like with the example you called out above. I definitely agree that the second message wouldn’t translate into the first for someone who has no context!

    8. Allonge*

      I sort of agree – to be honest the only 360s I participated in were a lot of questions (about 50) where you had to assess someone on a scale for various skills etc. and then had like 3 open questions for specific comments. So the overall result was a lot of numbers and some specific comments. I think there was also some kind of weighting going on, like ignoring the top and the bottom evals? Anyhoo, the results were presented as a whole, I had a person (not my supervisor) going through them with me, but after I had time to read it myself if I wanted, and this was all in all reasonably useful. And it was clear thoughout what the subject will see directly and what not.

      So in this case I agree that there was no need to rephrase the comments. LW’s situation is way different though.

  4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m facepalming.

    So, like, what’s the point of this whole exercise? Did Alexa analyze the comments, and then lay out ways for OP to improve performance, teamwork, etc? Or is this just a semi-anonymized asynchronous gripe session?

    1. Kheldarson*

      I believe the *intent* is that the manager gets the feedback, synthesizes it, and then says “hey, your peers say you do well with X, but they struggle with Y with you. Let’s come up with a plan to handle Y.” Or if she notices communication issues across the board or something, she can develop a team plan.

      It’s not supposed to be a dump and run.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, the intent of this is that the manager needs to sort it through and consider context – in terms of your job performance/requirements, the person who gave the feedback, and what the manager herself has seen. Maybe even follow up with certain people if the comments are unclear.
        Then afterwards, the manager gives you a summarized view of the general trends and most important items.
        Effectively, Alexa is doing Step 1 (ask for feedback) and Step 10 (provide feedback to employee), while skipping every intermediate step.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think there is any “intent” outside of Alexa — sounds like something she has put in place unilaterally (and didn’t actually know how to do it). Seems she just got this half-assed idea from somewhere and put into practice without really thinking about the consequences — I wonder if that applies to any of her other management decisions…?

    2. pamela voorhees*

      My guess is that this scenario would work in some sort of idealized, theoretical situation where all peers are completely objective and enormously well spoken, while also having a nuanced understanding of what their colleagues do. Of course, absolutely none of this is true. But it feels like Alexa heard about it in some theoretical setting – a management class, a leadership book, etc. – and put it into place with no thought about how this will actually go down in the real world, where Wakeen will drag Fergus through the mud until the day he dies because Fergus once said Wakeen’s pet ferret looks dumb.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        I’m surprised at hearing people’s accounts of getting negative feedback in peer reviews. Today’s customer survey standard has unfortunately become 5 stars or we need to discipline someone. I’ve only had 360 reviews at one company which did have generally younger employees and we noticed that the reviews were pretty much all 5/5 and no real substance on areas for improvement. We found it to be a result of the uber rating mindset and no one wanting to hurt anyone’s career.

        1. anonymous 5*

          I think the big problem is that feedback that’s going to be meaningful to someone’s job (in which there’s presumably a career arc with advancement opportunities, and in which different companies are going to have different particular priorities from their employees) needs to be something way more nuanced than 0-5 stars. And, of course, needs to be delivered in a way that it can be constructive.

        2. hbc*

          My last company had offices in the Netherlands and the US, and they noted how different our average scores given were. Americans pretty much defaulted to 5/5 and then bumped down to 3 for the very worst performance, while the Dutch average was around 3.

          1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

            This is probably specific to customer service type jobs, but I, an American, get constant puzzled questions from non-Americans about why to tip 18% even though customer service is never good.

            I live in an expensive city and always, ALWAYS, tip 18% regardless of service quality. A lot of it is due to the way workers are compensated and treated. Bad customer service is systemic because servers are overworked and underpaid, and probably have to deal with a**hole managers everyday. Also, tips are pooled, so stiffing one server of tips actually affects everyone. I also would never complain to a manager about bad service because it could cause a server to lose their job.

        3. UKDancer*

          I think there’s something in this. I have a cleaner once per month from an agency. I am always asked to rate the cleaner out of 5. One of the cleaners told me that if they get 5 star reviews across the board they get paid a higher wage and given the better jobs. Cleaners are not generally very well paid so unless they do a terrible job, I rate them at 5 stars because I don’t want them to suffer financially. Before learning that it affected their salary, I would probably have given a 4 star rating because that would indicate that it was done well.

          Accordingly I’m not sure how useful a tool it is for the agency to ask me to rate the cleaner in this way.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I resent being asked to rate service for every damn thing. Like you, I’d say 4 lots of the time — that’s a very good job IMO and 5 means can’t be better — but I know workers are penalized for anything less than perfect scores. Mostly I avoid giving ratings if I can. Can’t avoid it with Lyft, so I give every driver a 5 unless they totally suck. My last Instacart I struggled with — they were very late/slow and didn’t deliver an item I was charged for. I went to click 3/5 but that said 3=Bad. I hate that 3 has gone from neutral to “bad”! I gave her a 4 and provided specific feedback at the prompts. Best I can do.

  5. Naomi*

    OP, you mention that you would have softened the wording of your own feedback if you had known your coworkers would be reading it verbatim. If your coworkers’ comments about you were de-anonymized, it would be only fair for yours about them to be, too. Are you sure you want that? For the sake of your working relationships, it’s probably best to extend your coworkers the charity of assuming they would also have been more tactful if they had known you would see their comments.

  6. Oh No She Di'int*

    This is awful and you should not have been subjected to this OP. I’m so sorry you had to experience it.

    I’m going to slightly differ from Alison’s advice. If it were me, I would put this squarely back in Alexa’s lap. You were not given the feedback in any way that you can be expected to process reasonably. To me, that takes it out of your ethical responsibility to try and deal with.

    What *is* still within your responsibility is to go back to Alexa and ask her to do what she should have done the first time: synthesize the feedback and deliver it to you in a way that you can synthesize. Also, presumably, in a way that harmonizes your goals for yourself with Alexa’s goals for you, not just a scattershot of random gripes. Alison does provide a suggestion to go back to her for that information, but to my mind, until that happens I personally don’t see that you should be held responsible for acting on the feedback.

    1. CL Cox*

      This s especially true, I think, if the comments were all over the place. If every single comment was some variation of “OP has problems with time management,” then it would be pretty clear what OP needs to address. But if there’s nothing that’s clearly standing out, then Alexa needs to not only synthesize it for OP, but also let her know what Alexa thinks OP’s priorities should be moving forward.

  7. Marthooh*

    When I read this the first time, I thought the feedback review meeting was for the entire team at once. Reading it again, I think — I hope! — it was just OP and Alexa. Of course, having just your boss watch while you read through those painful comments is bad enough. Please tell Alexa what you told us about softening your own language if you’d known other people would have to eat your words raw. And assume other people would have done the same for you, if they’d known.

  8. Rockin Takin*

    My old boss used to do something similar, and it was brutal.

    She used to tell us to leave anonymous notes to coworkers on what they can do to improve. So you would end up with a handful of notes on why you are bad at your job. No help from her on what to do or how to fix it. You didn’t know who gave you that feedback.

    One time, she asked for anonymous feedback, then had a full staff meeting and went through everyone’s “anonymous” notes and encouraged people to guess who said what, and also was defensive and refuted most of the feedback.

    I’m so sorry your boss did this, but knowing who gave what feedback generally doesn’t help. Hopefully this will become a learning lesson for Alexa on how to provide meaningful and adequate feedback.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      I, for one, am wholly* surprised that someone who would revel in other people tearing each other down would be utterly unable to handle any critical feedback themselves.

      *by which I mean “not at all”

      1. Rockin Takin*

        I think she genuinely believed she was being helpful.

        I had performance reviews where I would leave in tears. One time she just told me nobody liked me and I was difficult, negative, and had a bad attitude. I was blindsided and it made me very paranoid and overly self conscious at work. She had no explanation for why people believed that, and had nothing to offer me in how to improve.

        Some of her feedback seemed gender related. Like she actually told me that when a male coworker said the same thing as me it was funny and charming, but when I said it I came off as mean and condescending.

    2. WellRed*

      She read the comments out loud to the whole staff? “Percival is terrible at database management and chews his gum too loudly,” and then asked the room to guess who said it?? What is the purpose of any of that?

        1. Rockin Takin*

          A lot of us were teenagers/ early 20s and didn’t have jobs before this, so we just thought that was how things were done.

          She was not the most self aware boss, and was not great at delivering information. Sometimes I would get just rambling emails from her.

      1. Rockin Takin*

        In that example it was more like general comments on how work could be done better.
        Like “I think X is a waste of our resources” and she would then try and suss out who said it while also defending X.

        The personal feedback from your coworkers were delivered in hand written notes that were left in your mailbox, so anyone could see them and read them if they looked in your box. (we worked at a day camp, so no one had desks and our environment was very informal).

    3. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Pretty sure this was the “Performance Review” episode of “The Office.” (You need to do something about your coffee breath.)

    4. Rockin Takin*

      Oh, I forgot to mention the worst example of feedback.

      We were gathering supplies for camp, and I went to another counselor to ask for some craft supplies. We kind of miscommunicated and got angry at each other. When I went back to my area, I complained about her being rude to me. My boss overheard this.

      The boss then gathered the entire staff and went through play by play what had happened and why we were wrong. Like just kept talking about why we were wrong for how we acted…in front of the entire staff. And asking others to chime in on why what we did was wrong. My co-worker and a couple others involved were literally crying. I kind of just sat there in shock, unsure what to do besides apologize. My boss’s co-lead was telling her we should discuss this in private, but the boss wouldn’t let up and the meeting was at least a half hour or so.

      The next day the boss apologized and ordered lunch for everyone, while also telling us that she gets berated by her boss for stuff we do and it’s challenging for her.

      Now that I’m older/have more job experience, I’ve learned that these types of responses are not appropriate. But back then I thought that’s how all bosses were.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        “But back then I thought that’s how all bosses were.”

        Unfortunately that is how many bosses are! Not many in the sense of ‘the majority’ (I hope) but many overall, as in most people will expect to come across a few bosses like this in the course of their working life.

        1. Rockin Takin*

          I’ve had a lot of better bosses since then, which really helped me.
          Now I’m a people manager and most of the time I look back on those years to know what NOT to do.

    5. Mel_05*

      A former employer would always come to me with feedback that was so stripped of any identifying features that it was useless. Which really just left the painful parts.

      He doesn’t understand why so many people are leaving the company.

  9. yodaismyboo*

    I’m so sorry. My last job (in academia, no less) was exactly this, with the added twist that since my job classification was unique, I received copy/paste feedback but never had the opportunity to give it. A lot of it (especially from faculty) was mean-spirited, and since it was “anonymous,” I couldn’t really do anything with it. I tried to partition the review as something that I had to do and built relationships/worked through issues totally outside of it. I’d also be interested to know what follow-up your supervisor was expecting from this conversation–wouldn’t be surprised to hear she wasn’t expecting any.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Academia survivor here. Over 10 years of reviews that offered me nothing but either “you’re GREAT!” or “you need to work on communication with X person on projects that I can’t give you an example of because you’ll know who thinks you are hard to communicate with. But don’t worry, no one else said anything” arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  10. Mama Bear*

    I had a horrible mid-year review where it had not been made clear to me that we were (for the first time) doing mid-years and I felt attacked. After that meeting I decided that the relationship between myself and my manager was irreparable and I got out as quickly as I could. Alexa could be inadvertently causing the same thought process in people if she doesn’t mitigate these comments. I’m so sorry she didn’t handle it better for you. What are you supposed to do with that info dump? I don’t think anyone would feel great and empowered.

  11. Manon*

    > I also thought about the sincere comments that I myself had provided about others, and how I would have worded them in a softer way if I knew they were going to be shared in this form.

    Keep in mind that your team might be thinking the same thing!

  12. You're Far Too Sensitive*

    I hate to say it but if all of your peers had similar feedback that you feel is “harsh”, perhaps you need to reevaluate yourself and how you deal with others. We recently did an anonymous survey like this and all feedback was delivered verbatim with no names. It’s actually quite helpful to see how other people perceive you so you can try to learn from the experience. Sure, some folks are just jerks but, as a manager, I’d think you’d be well equipped to handle something like that. If not, perhaps you’re in the wrong line of work.

    As far as wanting to know who said what? I’d be filing a complaint if I took a survey that was promoted as anonymous and then found out that my name was being released to the people that I provided feedback on. People are more apt to be honest if they know that their name won’t be associated with the feedback.

    I’d suggest you take the feedback and determine 1. are you really taking this way too seriously? Perhaps you’re blowing their feedback out of proportion? 2. Do you need to make some changes to the way you work? While you can’t please everyone, as a manager, you have to learn to adapt your style to fit those around you. Maybe you need to do some work on yourself before you start freaking out…especially if you have consistent feedback from 6-7 different sources.

    1. Sunflower Sea Star*

      This is a really unkind interpretation. OP mentioned there are politics and dysfunction, and in an environment like that, it wouldn’t be unsurprising if peers were giving harsh reviews to others to try and keep them down.
      Here’s a tip: anytime you feel the need to preface something with “I hate to say it but…” you probably don’t need to say it at all.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        To be fair, OP herself said she would have worded what she said about others in a softer way had she known the comments would be shared verbatim. I think Far Too Sensitive’s comment is a bit harsh, but it’s fair.

      2. Magenta*

        It really doesn’t sound unkind to me at all, it is good advice.
        If everyone is saying similar things it points to a pattern, one that it would benefit the LW to address. I say this as a manager who has received some really personal nasty feedback in the past. It is important to really think about feedback, reflect on where it is coming from and why it was said, then you can work out whether or not it is valuable or not.
        There are lots of things I have hated saying that needed to be said, I have hated telling a report that they have a personal hygiene problem, but it would have been more unkind of me to say nothing and let people talk about it behind their back. I have hated giving negative feedback, but it is kinder to give it than to let someone fail.
        Sometimes negative things need saying and sometimes people react badly to them.

    2. NW Mossy*

      While anonymity does free people to speak their minds more candidly, feedback can be candid without being constructive. Saying “Mossy talks too much” is emphatically true in a broad sense (I mean, I can hear myself), but isn’t particularly useful to me in knowing where and when I need to zip my lip – presumably, there are still some circumstances in which people do want to hear what I have to say. Saying “Mossy dominates the conversation in meetings about turtles even though her total knowledge of turtles would fit in a thimble” is equally candid but much more constructive.

      A lot depends on what these surveys are truly for and how that intent was explained to the people taking them. Are they for the feedback giver to have a voice they might not otherwise, or are they to drive change and improvement in the receiver? Both? Something else entirely? It sounds like Alexa entirely missed the mark on defining her intention before her action, and now, it’s playing out poorly.

      1. serenity*

        Reading through these comments (including the one above by “You’re Far Too Sensitive”) and it’s seeming to me like a *lot* of folks here are having trouble differentiating between “performance-related feedback” and subjective evaluations of the personalities of peers. They are not the same thing.

        “It’s actually quite helpful to see how other people perceive you” is actually a horrible framing and will likely result in personal, ad hominem comments from peers rather than actually helpful feedback. In fact, there was a semi-recent study done at Harvard that showed that negative feedback, regardless of intent, is rarely productive and also rarely results in changes in performance!


    3. Well, there's this*

      I think this reply was unnecessarily harsh. Telling someone they’re too sensitive isn’t particularly helpful or productive, especially when other people are being jerks to them. Note the OP said they are usually able to take feedback well and would like to use it as a development opportunity.

      Being able to give and receive feedback is an important part of any job. I see this as Alexa copping out in doing her job herself.

      1. big_time*

        But why is it ‘sincere and candid’ when the LW gave feedback for others but ‘politically motivated’ and ‘being jerks’ when the feedback is about them?

        1. Well, there's this*

          That is a question worth asking, and I’d really need to see all the feedback to make a call there.

          My thoughts when I wrote the above relate to what happened to a colleague when a new C-Level started. The C-Level called my colleagues’s team members individually into his office for a 30-minute talk before he talked to my colleague, and one of those direct reports threw him under the bus.

    4. hedda*

      It’s right there in bold when you start to create a comment: “Before you comment: Please be kind…”

    5. Grace*

      I agree, as long as the feedback was about work and not based on looks or personal things about the OP. I don’t think this is harsh at all, one of the best and hardest things I learned as a manager is not to take feedback personal. To look at what I’m doing and see how I can be perceived in that way and what I can do to fix that. If the OP had one complaint I would say it could be anything but if they were all negative then there is a problem with OP. Ignoring it isn’t going to help anyone. The Op has to look at how they are perceived and how they are coming across to people especially coworkers.

      I hate to say this but I think this conversation warrants it, and I want to preface it by saying It took me a while to be able to follow this but now when I get feedback or comments that upset me I can deal with it better. I ask myself if my husband or brother got the same feedback or comment would they be upset or would they do something with it. I know I am too emotional and I need context.

    6. Des*

      I agree. The OP’s letter is brimming with too much emotion and the need to hunt down who wrote these things about them. It does not spell good things.

  13. Anon for this one*

    I think it’s interesting that OP couldn’t identify which comments came from who (or is it whom?) even though they were verbatim and even presented in writing! It isn’t a reflection on the OP, but I think in many situations we’d probably have a good idea of which ‘peers’ were likely to have written which feedback. It does point to kind of a dysfunctional team.

    ‘Alexa’ isn’t fit to be a senior manager if she’d screw up something as basic as this (which isn’t really advanced management techniques — fairly low level awareness of how something is likely to be perceived is just basic empathy and perspective taking really) — I would bet dollars to donuts that Alexa isn’t “reasonably competent aside from this” as Alison charitably suggested.

    OP, you are asking the wrong question if you now want to know who supplied each piece of feedback, Alison and comments have explained why. But I would not be surprised if this Alexa does eventually give you the names and faces!

    (Interesting choice of pseudonym, maybe there’s another Alexa in pop culture I’m not aware of, but I only know the Amazon Alexa…. which appears to be an intelligent agent but is actually just a machine parroting things it’s been programmed to parrot.)

    1. KatyO*

      Very good point here. I feel like I can usually tell who said what in these situations just by the way they “speak”.

      “I think it’s interesting that OP couldn’t identify which comments came from who (or is it whom?) even though they were verbatim and even presented in writing! It isn’t a reflection on the OP, but I think in many situations we’d probably have a good idea of which ‘peers’ were likely to have written which feedback. It does point to kind of a dysfunctional team.”

      1. Minimax*

        Eh if they are short enough then there isn’t much to go off of.

        “OP is in unreliable and rude” isnt enough to get a personal feel for who wrote it.

        1. Heidi*

          I can see why reviewers may not want to go into more detail, though. If I wrote, “OP was 3 weeks late in sending me the XYZ report and when I asked about it, they told me to shove off,” that would illustrate rude and unreliable behavior, but it wouldn’t be anonymous anymore (unless OP routinely tells people to shove off, I guess). Giving truly constructive feedback is really difficult.

        2. NYWeasel*

          The funny thing is that I’m generally enough in tune with what my stakeholders and peers are pissed about that I can identify them by as short a sentence as that. The Llama Wrangling department thinks I’m “unhelpful” because I’ve told them wrangling llamas is their job, not mine, the Emu Groomers get annoyed bc I don’t have enough time to chase our budgets for them, and the Croc Sorters are forever frustrated bc they don’t feel like I tell them clearly how to sort crocs (mind you, my responsibilities are NOT sorting any type of wildlife).

          So I know instantly:
          Unhelpful = Llamas
          Uncommunicative = Emus
          Unclear = Crocs

          I pretty much could write their negative complaints for them. And to answer the obvious questions of why I don’t fix it if I know it’s a problem, the answers are:

          Llamas: Sorry that I’m not assigned to do your work but I have a clearly defined role.
          Emus: This is actually my focus area for improvement, but we are hamstrung by the vendor system we need to navigate and the timings we’re given. (We’re making progress though, yay!!!)
          Crocs: You need to define your role in the process, not lean on us to tell you how to do your job.

          1. Grey Coder*

            Oh yes to this. My colleague has been told someone else finds working with her “challenging” — that’s because my colleague is trying to make the someone else actually do some work.

      2. Dragoning*

        I don’t know about other people, but if I’m writing something anonymously, I tend to change up my register a bit so it doesn’t sound precisely like me.

  14. KatyO*

    I’d really like to know the exact verbiage that was relayed from the peers. Some folks take things far more personally than others. I have an alarmingly high tolerance for criticism & feedback from my previous jobs so, I don’t tend to take things as personally as many folks do. I have a peer that would be terribly distraught if someone said that they came across as blunt and sarcastic. If/when they say that about me, I’m like…”you right”. Ha Ha :)

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I mean, I’m kind of the same as you. People are like, “You suck at your job and you never do anything right!” I’m like: “Hold on, let me get a notepad.”

      However, I’m also socially aware enough to know that I am an outlier. The fact that some people have a thicker skin and can take more criticism has no bearing on whether Alexa approached this in the most useful way or not.

  15. Salsa Your Face*

    Something similar happened to me once, and it was equally demoralizing. We were told that the feedback would be presented anonymously, but we were given the impression that it would be summarized. Instead, it was presented just as yours was: word for word. It was a small team and our knowledge of each others’ writing styles made it abundantly clear who wrote what, and every single one of us felt devastated in the end. We begged leadership to handle reviews differently the next time. Instead they just stopped giving reviews–and therefore raises–altogether. Employers: be better!

  16. AndersonDarling*

    I’m concerned that the OP’s main priority is finding out who said what. The worst managers I’ve worked for were always trying to find out who said what in surveys. They didn’t care what was said. They didn’t care if they needed to improve. They didn’t care if people were calling them out for bad behaviors. They just wanted to find out who said it so they could make excuses based on who commented.

    1. Sighhhh*


      Sure, the feedback was presented in a particularly tactless/ineffectual way, but yeah, the knee-jerk reaction shouldn’t be trying to find out who said what.

      1. Minimax*

        The thong is, when you get anonymous contextless feedback it can make you feel really paranoid.

        Does everyone feel this way or is it just complainer chad?
        Is this in certain circumstances or all the time?
        Are people actually this disastisfied with me or are they actually just pissed and projecting about the companies pay cuts that were announced the day before?

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Right. Especially since the OP thinks her feedback was “helpful and candid” and “sincere” but others’ feedback of her was “overly critical and unjust” and “politically-motivated.” I wonder how many of her peers thought the same of her comments …my first impression was, “your shit stinks, but mine doesn’t.”

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Pay no attention, I think it was the opposite from what you said. OP would have softened their feedback if they knew it was not going to be summarized and put in context:

        “I also thought about the sincere comments that I myself had provided about others, and how I would have worded them in a softer way if I knew they were going to be shared in this form.”

        The “helpful and candid” feedback was intended to be helpful and candid to the manager, not given directly to coworkers.

        I have a coworker who is incredibly difficult and a huge drag on morale. I would certainly say that one way to my boss and a totally different way to the coworker.

        I think the OP is right and not too sensitive.

    3. hbc*

      I’m disturbed by that reaction too. OP was expecting her anonymous feedback to be useful, so surely there’s something that’s actionable in general. I doubt anyone got as specific as “OP uses red pen when marking up my documents in a gross power play,” but OP can switch colors for everyone, or ask if anyone has a color preference, or just carry on because that’s one person’s weird hangup.

      OP, I think you’re so deeply mired in this disfunction you don’t realize you’ve kind of become part of it. Take a deep breath, see if there’s anything useful underneath the Great Venting Opportunity that everyone seems to have taken.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I felt the same way. I get that OP didn’t expect to see people’s exact words (or have them see hers!), but the reaction shouldn’t be, “Tell me who said this, (so I can do what exactly?)”, it should be, “Hey Alexa, I don’t think this is the way to go about this because….”. Alexa flubbed this badly, but the OP wants to make it worse by confronting people over what I am sure they thought were just as helpful, candid, and sincere as the OP’s comments were about her peers.

    5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Eh I worked somewhere where our youth program instructors got parent evaluations at the end of a class, and it absolutely mattered who said what, if we took it seriously or not. We’d get some shockingly mean reviews from Karenish parents and bigots, and there was literally nothing the instructor could have done to get a better review because the parent was crazy.

    6. Des*

      Exactly. The need to find out who did it rather than why or how to fix it is what’s bothersome to me about this letter.

  17. Amethystmoon*

    Could it be that they just have never learned how to properly give feedback? I say this as someone who had a mother like that. Every comment she made was hurtful, to the one (me) who was just trying to make her happy. Yet there was never anything positive in her comments, just negative, pretty much no matter what. She never learned that in order to give feedback properly, one should balance negative with positive so it doesn’t all come across badly. Something like “Hey, you’re a really nice person. If you would just double-check your work to catch typos, it would make my day go by a lot easier. I love what you did on xyz project, it was very creative.”

    IMHO, these types of exercises should be limited — I’m not sure that they really do people good, especially if the people giving the feedback don’t know how to be constructive.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      This sometimes happens with people who’ve never had managerial/supervisory experience. They’ve never been in a situation where they’ve been held accountable for providing constructive feedback in a two-way setting (unlike, say, with their children or something), so they don’t learn how to do it.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        The people providing the feedback are managers themselves, though — OP says that there are “eight teams, each with their own manager. Each team manager reports into the division head, Alexa. I am the manager of one of these teams.” and then refers to “peers” providing the feedback, which means each team manager. Presumably as team managers, they have to provide feedback to their own reports in order to help them improve, get them to change the way they’re doing something, or whatever.

        1. Anon for this*

          Where I work, the managers definitely can go for the jugular in exercises like this when they are critiquing each other while they would never do so with a direct report.

      2. Oranges*

        As an art student (once a long time ago) we had to learn to criticize. We had very strict specific guidelines about how to go about it.

        The main things that I remember are:
        To first state how this art/artist choices came across to you. (eg. if you don’t like the plaid purple background because you think it’s hideous, you must ask why the artist made that choice. After you heard the artist’s intent you could state that for you it didn’t read that way and state what might help)

        If the art is clumsy, point it out gently and then make a suggestion on how to get better. (eg I can state that your lines don’t “flow” and how I got better or brainstorm on how to get better at that skill)

        All comments can be ignored by the artist, but only after they think about them. (eg if the weird person who sees feet everywhere in everyone’s art is saying I should include a foot in my painting. I can totally ignore them after thinking “does my painting need a foot? no.” for 0.2 seconds. But if a person who I trust tells me that my art isn’t balanced. I’ll actually take that feedback seriously)

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      I would be hesitant to lay too much responsibility at the feet of the participants. It sounds to me like everyone likely participated in good faith, but weren’t given enough information about the context. That’s hardly the participants’ fault. It’s a bit like being asked to share your lunch and then finding out that person intends to serve the food to a meeting of the company’s major investors. That’s just not the purpose you prepared it for.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I’d like to hope I wouldn’t be mean or adding to office politics, but I’d definitely be a lot blunter in feedback that I thought would be anonymous and summarized to the recipient than if I were assuming they were going to read my comments verbatim.

  18. Jedi Squirrel*

    If my Alexa did this, I would send it back to Amazon. /s

    This has to be one of the worst ways to manage feedback, ever. Did Alexa agree with all this feedback? Did some of it contradict other parts of it? This really seems like a case of a manager not managing. None of it makes people reflect on their own work, it just makes them suspicious and wary.

    OP, I’m sorry this happened to you. I also think you shouldn’t worry about who said what. It’s entirely possible your peers are wondering the same thing. Please do send an update if you ever get a satisfying resolution to this. (Although I admit I have no idea what that would be. I’m just gobsmacked by this.)

  19. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I once participated in something a little similar in a previous company. It wasn’t feedback about individuals though, but rather about other departments as a whole (IT, Accounts, Warehouse, Sales etc) and was a mixture of “scale” questions (1-5 how much confidence do you have in this department to do xyz competently, or whatever it was — it was ages ago and I can’t remember the content, sorry) and “freehand” questions where you could write whatever you wanted into a text box.

    Apparently the results would be combined and synthesised by management and presented to each team as anonymised feedback.

    What actually happened was that most of the comments were passed on verbatim in the feedback meetings (not attributed to their author but I think it was stated which ‘team’ they had come from, e.g. Accounts feedback on IT)

    It was a dysfunctional environment in lots of ways, and (shame on me) I took the opportunity to give harsh negative (but justified) feedback on particular teams, and specific people within the teams. I had been raising the related issues through the “proper channels” for months and it wasn’t just gripes or personality conflicts, it was actual serious mistakes that had implications down the line for our work that I was complaining about. I guess I thought here was an opportunity to raise it again and maybe now something will be done about it?!

    I probably wouldn’t respond that way now (I was early 20s and fairly new to the world of work — I’m almost 40 now!) but then again I might be tempted.

    OP, you replied with “helpful, candid” comments rather than something generic and bland — why? Presumably because those comments reflect actual issues or observations you have about those managers, and tried to be constructive in identifying them. I wonder if you have also tried raising the related issues through the “normal” channels (whatever they look like in your company — management meetings? 1 to 1s if you have them (but I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t)? general chats with your peers? etc) but got nowhere so resorted to giving the same feedback in perhaps a more “blunt” way thinking Alexa would handle it.

    I think this incident should seriously undermine your faith in Alexa as a boss, actually.

  20. Super anon today*

    This reminds me of one time my manager did a survey of our 40+ person team on me/my role (I was the only person in the role, and it was a role that a lot of the team thought was unnecessary and did their best to circumvent…let’s say I inspected the llamas after grooming). I was burned out and struggling. That was fun.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      Oh hell, that’s awful.

      And inspecting llamas is important. What if there was a brush stuck in a knot somewhere?

      1. Super anon today*

        Oh there were plenty of brushes caught in knots too, however much people wanted to say I was unnecessary. I moved to another position in the company and their new inspector is much tougher, from what I hear.

  21. CupcakeCounter*

    That is SO not how that should be done. Seriously, the only thing Alexa did correctly was not give you the names associated with each comment.
    As Alison said, the data should be reviewed by the manager and a few key talking points should be presented to the individual as praise or areas in which to improve. Ideally, items reviewed are those that popped up on several reviews instead of OP seeing one off items that might not be an on-going performance issue but someone’s pet peeve that was triggered by something OP did and now they are holding a grudge.
    For example, if 5 of the 8 people mentioned that OP was prone to interrupting conversations with corrections or ideas, Alexa should have addressed that issue as a more generic “One of the common themes of your peer review was a habit of not allowing other employees to finish their thought/recommended course of action before interjecting your opinion.” Or “Attention to detail in shared documents was mentioned several times as an area where OP could improve” as opposed to “I have to correct so many of OP’s spelling and grammatical errors it doubles the amount of time it takes me to edit a document.”
    The recipient should NEVER see the actual comments as in some cases it can make it clear who the reviewer is.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Agree that the boss should have taken the feedback with the most consensus (e.g. too prone to interrupting, not enough attention to detail in shared documents – in your examples) as most important and formulated it accordingly.

      Do you think the boss should take into account the ‘unique’ comments (that are raised by only one person) as background information even if they aren’t presented as part of this feedback session? Or should they just be regarded as outliers and “pet peeves”?

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Our supervisor regards the outlier comments as pet peeves, but follows up if they’re serious (like they could indicate that the person being reviewed is a bully or similar).

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think it would depend on the complaint and the complainer – I’m thinking about the letter this past week where one and only one employee was the victim of the office creep. Say the only woman in the team complains that Fergus initiates inappropriate conversations, and all the other men don’t. Does that mean she’s wrong or that her feedback is irrelevant?

        A good manager (!!!) understands the personalities and interpersonal relationships at play within the team, and knows that Wakeen has a Thing About Punctuality, and that Jane and Marsha have never quite clicked, and will take those factors into consideration at the filtering stage. As Captain suggests, they may simply inform ongoing management (clock-watching Wakeen gets aggravated when rockstar Jane arrives at 9.02) or they may indicate a problem in its early stages (Marsha is the only person needing to put in overtime and Bob never processes the extra hours until the payroll deadline has passed).

  22. Prof Ma'am*

    I have to laugh because I’m a college professor and this is literally what our student feedback forms are… except it’s a whole bunch of 19 year olds with no pedagogical knowledge. It’s like a gut punch every semester going through their critical feedback, but what AAM suggested is what we do: read through and filter out the extremes and try to focus on any patterns.

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      Yep. At this point I still kind of dread it, but on the other hand, I’m able to roll my eyes at the comments that are upset that I had them read literature that wasn’t American, the ones that say they didn’t enjoy the class because I “pretended” that evolution or climate change is real, and the ones that comment on my clothing. (The evaluation during my second year of teaching that said I should wear my skirts shorter was especially memorable).

      1. snoopythedog*

        As a TA, I used to band together with the other TAs in my department to drink wine and read our feedback forms. Students are ruthless and clueless at the same time.

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          Oh, man, I know. My favorites were, “I would have enjoyed this class much more if it didn’t focus so much on reading and writing” (in a freshman-level English Comp. class) and a comment that was a long rant about how much the student did not appreciate being “nearly beheaded” by his own dislike for John Milton in a British Survey class and how he hated that “Even though I disagreed with his theology, I was told to read him anyway.” Like, yes, I didn’t say you had to agree with his theology, but you do have to read him. That comment finished with a recommendation for a “much better author she can teach next year: Nicholas Sparks.”

          You cannot make this shit up.

          1. Des*

            >how he hated that “Even though I disagreed with his theology, I was told to read him anyway.” Like, yes, I didn’t say you had to agree with his theology, but you do have to read him.

            LMAO . Wow!

      2. bleh*

        Or that I need to get over being called “Mrs” Bleh instead of “Dr” Bleh. Let me guess how many male professors you call “Mr” …

    2. Dr. Doll*

      Hoo boy, this was my immediate first thought as well. *Exactly* like student ratings forms.

      Hopefully the OP’s comments didn’t include gems such as “You’d be a better teacher if you wore makeup.”

        1. Super anon today*

          This reminds me of that Rate Your Professor site where they had chili pepper icons to indicate if the professor was “hot” (I think they got rid of that).

    3. 'nother prof*

      I was reminded of student feedback forms too… and how student evaluations have been proven to align more closely to the professor’s gender and race than their teaching ability. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I still plan to skim my evaluations in the future, but I wouldn’t blame the LW if they tried to just forget them all. There’s no guarantee that their feedback is any more accurate than student evals are.

      Also, since folks have already added a few fun student eval comments: “Someone needs to tell her that she’s teaching a [film] class. She keeps lecturing, when she should just show [movies].”

      Yes, yes I did.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Never haven been a teacher, I thought of the peer review that is common in classes, where the students each get to review another student’s essay. Of course, those are usually face to face so people tend to be much kinder, and the teacher can interrupt if they go too much of topic. In my last year as a student we did some written peer review, too. I wonder if my teachers were tired of reading the student evaluations?

    5. KoiFeeder*

      I was always told that those were read by the administration, not the teachers themselves, and now I’m really concerned if that was a lie because that might explain some things…

      (While I never wrote anything that I wouldn’t have stood by if the department chair and the evaluated teacher asked me to explain my thoughts behind, I might have worded things differently. At least used less instances of swearing.)

      1. Prof Ma'am*

        Not only do instructors read it, their department chairs also read it, and it all goes towards promotion and tenure. It’s absolutely nuts how much weight these student feedback forms have.

        1. bleh*

          Especially because -as ‘nother prof explains- all the research shows that student ratings correspond to race, gender, and attractiveness and not effective teaching. Hell, there have been studies that show students give the same evaluation on the first day of class as they do at the semester end. So you knew just by looking what sort of instruction you would get. Hmmmm.

        2. Super anon today*

          Now feeling all kinds of ways about the negative feedback I gave for an adjunct a couple of semesters ago…I still feel she wasn’t good (she had a full time job outside of teaching and took days to respond to questions on the forums and weeks to return grades, which was a big problem IMO because 80% of the grade was a large project, so you really needed to get feedback on each piece in a timely manner to be able to have a good product to submit for the next deadline and people got dinged for not incorporating her feedback). She’s not teaching there anymore though I (of course) have no idea if student feedback/complaints had anything to do with that.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Oooh, yeah, that definitely explains why that teacher avoided me for the rest of my time in undergrad.

  23. Always Learning*

    My job does this too, on our annual reviews which are handled through a large online tool. As the manager, you can solicit feedback from other people who have worked with that person. However, the comments print out verbatim on the final review that you use to have the evaluation meeting with the employee. This is tough if and when context is required.

    For example, one comment directed to me was a recommendation that I interact more with other supervisors (I have been in my supervisory role about 2 years). However, my boss couldn’t give me more information when I asked for clarification. I need to know what the desired end goal is of that recommendation so I know how to focus my efforts. Do I need to improve my professional presence? Interact more with other departments to streamline project deliverables? The verbatim approach is not recommended.

  24. Goldenrod*

    When I worked in a place that did 360 reviews, I made a point of NEVER giving negative feedback….ever. If I personally disliked someone and/or had criticism of their work, I just wouldn’t submit anything. If I did submit feedback, it was because I could be positive.

    The reason I did this is because it was a VERY toxic workplace, and I didn’t trust the managers to handle anything negative. I could see value in sharing criticism if you really trusted management….but I didn’t! I just felt like NO WAY was I going to help them abuse employees. Whether or not their work was good!

    1. Skeptical Squirrel*

      At first I was like…well, people need critical feedback if they ever want to improve…but then second part I am like, totally see your point.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Seconded. Too easy to get burned, and never assume it’s anonymous for real.

      I have no beliefs that anyone is going to improve either, though.

  25. merula*

    I think that where Alexa really screwed up was not providing any guidance or interpretation of the feedback.

    My manager gets 360 feedback on me, and shares it with me, sometimes verbatim. I appreciate the feedback being shared verbatim because it allows me to understand the nuance of the feedback better. However, she NEVER passes on any feedback without sharing her take on it. She shares feedback that she disagrees with, and she tells me why she disagrees with it, because she believes that it’s helpful to know what people are thinking, even if they’re the only one who thinks that.

  26. Lisa*

    Oh wow, how awful. This reminds me of a place that I worked when I was first starting out. The yearly reviews were basically a recap of everything you messed up on during the year, including things like minor typos. It was super petty and unhelpful. Sometimes the manager would mix us girls up (you know cuz all us ladies look the same) and he would slam us for something someone else did. If you attempted to point it out, he’d accuse you of being defensive… well that is expected when you are literally attacking someone. Once he told me that I had a habit of forgetting names of people. I asked for an example and he couldn’t give me one. I asked him to quiz me on the names and I passed with flying colors. I remember always leaving these reviews feeling like they were such a waste of time and a total morale killer. Many people quit immediately after these reviews.

  27. St. Lucia*

    Yes, I similarly received my 360 reviews unfiltered. It was quite clear who wrote what. The whole process was extremely demoralizing due to the way the review process failed to provide any relevant feedback on the core aspects of my job, while giving people a platform to voice their pet peeves and to complain about things that aren’t even in my job description. I also received multiple gendered comments such as “talks too much”, “should smile more” and so on.

  28. JelloStapler*

    We did this with direct reports and got a lot of feedback- that was not all things we could control or were things that seemed nitpicky and extremely personal to one or two people on the team. It caused a ton of turmoil that way we asked for it!

  29. St. Lucia*

    One of the oddest thing in my 360 review was that they insisted that I give input into my own review! I therefore had to answer all the same questions as everyone else, regarding how I was doing my job. So this was puzzling….I finally decided that I honestly felt I was doing the absolute best that I could in each of the questions. I also recalled reading about studies that showed that women (I’m a woman) compared to men often failed to “blow their own horn” at work. So I gave myself the top score in every category on my 360 review, and I also wrote feedback comments that praised me for doing what I was doing etc. When the HR people met with me to discuss my 360, they were not amused, and they said that nobody ever gives themselves 100% in everything- you weren’t supposed to do that. The other comments on my 360 were uninformative – petty complaints etc. Thus, I remain mystified about what I wasn’t doing well.

  30. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    In a previous company we had a 360 degree annual review process — which lasted exactly one year (one ‘review cycle’)

    We each had to nominate up to 5 people to provide feedback. I nominated 5 people who I felt could speak honestly to my performance as I had worked closely with them (each individually) during the year. I didn’t have in mind “who will provide the most favourable feedback” as I had drunk the kool-aid that this was a rational and objective process..

    I was also nominated by 4 people to provide feedback — which I found strange, as I was known for being a no-bs fiercely intelligent straight talker with occasions where emotions got on top of me, who quite a few people felt intimidated by — so I felt sure no one would want to nominate me to provide their feedback!

    Actually 2 of the 4 who nominated me were in my chain of command — my ‘grandboss’, and his boss (i.e. my boss’s boss’s boss)! I gave one of them a justified “above expectations” assessment with suitable verbal feeback, and the other a “meeting expectations” with feedback including some balanced negative comments. I didn’t know if this would get back to them verbatim but I’d have been happy to say this to their face before given the opportunity (I’m an ENTP for those who believe in that sort of thing) but never really got the chance to speak my mind.

    It speaks volumes that my direct boss didn’t nomimate me (I don’t care emotionally but thought it was interesting, especially as I had spent most of my time and energy bailing him out of situations over the year and ‘covering’ in various ways)

    The other 2 were ‘peers’ of a similar level to myself but not “siblings” on the org chart if that makes sense (i.e. we didn’t have the same boss). I had “below expectations” feedback for one of them and detailed rationally why. I’ve no idea why he nominated me actually — it was free choice subject to approval and I had had many conflicts with him over the year during which I made it clear I thought he wasn’t performing! The other was “meeting” or “exceeding” expectations which I can’t recall now.

    The comments I’d requested from others came back to me verbatim with authors attached and most were fair but a couple were “rants” I thought (but it still tells you something valuable about that person!)

    Would I be reluctant to provide feedback if I’d known it was going to be presented verbatim to the people with my name attached… I don’t know. Probably not though as I generally stand by things I say and not afraid of conflict — but then I have been trained in conflict by dysfunctional workplaces.

    (I sometimes find myself tempted to stir up drama to generate conflict in my current place, as is a pretty healthy workplace! I know that’s not right and I’m working on it.)

    1. Goldenrod*

      “(I sometimes find myself tempted to stir up drama to generate conflict in my current place, as is a pretty healthy workplace! I know that’s not right and I’m working on it.)”

      I think it’s awesome that you are working on that. Most people who stir up drama at work have NO IDEA they do it, and even leave jobs to “get away from the drama” that they themselves are creating! Having this self-awareness is huge.

  31. Ms. Green Jeans*

    I was subjected to this review tactic in a PT customer service call center position and received positive reviews, with one exception. My opposite shift desk counterpart gave me a scathing report, and said I needed to practice creating the product in my off-time. I never even saw this person. My supervisor glommed onto this and reduced my rating even though I produced photographic evidence that I had taken up teapot-making as a side hobby and was gifting my teapots to family. (Fact was, I hadn’t taken in-person classes with receipts, which was the only approved way to learn.) I had no idea how to improve after this review and really couldn’t get past it. Good riddance, minimum wage job and coworker whom I never knew.

  32. Meredith*

    Oh, my old company did that as part of our 360 reviews. Which were completely unhelpful. What we got was just management feedback (yeah, things are great!), a print out of anonymous coworker feedback (how someone in certain positions could suggest someone whose work they weren’t intimately familiar with move to other positions, I don’t know), and… that was about it? No salary increase discussion as part of the process. No real mentoring to speak of (which was a huge issue there in general). I, too, was surprised when I had my first 360 review that it was just what everyone had submitted, spit out into a neat little spreadsheet with no commentary or framing of the feedback from my boss, or anyone. I would have hated to have names attached, though, although none of it was harsh.

  33. Arctic*

    I wonder if the feedback given, in general, tends to veer toward being overly negative. OP suggests that, although her feedback was sincere, she would have phrased things differently if she had known it was being shared too. And it sounds like the feedback she received wasn’t very balanced. It seems from what we know the reviews tend to focus on the negative.
    If I were in a managerial position and I saw that across the board people were given each other negative feedback I’d step back and think about the culture problems. Like, maybe, people generally don’t see the benefit of positive feedback too. Not because there is none to give but because the workplace doesn’t foster that mindset.

  34. Heidi*

    I remember once I went over several anonymous reviews with my boss, and all of them were really good except one, which was awful. Even though my boss told me that this reviewer was unfairly harsh and my performance was fine, it’s hard to get over the feeling that someone out there is nice to your face but secretly thinks you’re terrible. I even started to suspect a specific person, and it’s totally possible that it wasn’t that person at all.

  35. Sconnie*

    This happened to me once, they said my training class was going to have an “observer” in the back and then the feedback was just really cruel – like my pants were too long and other things that had nothing to do with the class and my training. I left in tears.

  36. Lunavesca*

    This sounds like my last review. They were supposed to be 360 reviews, with feedback from a peer, a manager, someone you manage, and yourself. My review was written out in sections and paragraphs, and I could see many instances where what I’d written in my self-assessment were just directly copy-pasted into the review, maybe with some pronoun alterations to make them fit the sentence. Based on that, I assume the rest of the review was the same and the entire thing was a copy-paste patchwork.

    It was all about how awful a person I am – negative, argumentative, toxic, verbally abusive, entitled, etc. 3 or 4 pages of this with just subjective descriptions of personality traits, but no specific examples – not even after I asked for them. I was flabbergasted. I had been at that company for years with the same people and until that point had never even been told anything negative in a review (which is its own, separate problem). I had no idea anyone at the company thought these things about me, and still have no idea WHY they thought them.

    I eventually ended up getting a formal apology from the owner, in part due to the fact that the HR person in charge of reviews did not do a good job synthesizing the feedback into useful advice. The HR person ended up being fired (as far as I can tell) and this may have been a contributing factor, I don’t know.

    I tried my best to take the feedback seriously and understand it, but I struggled without specific examples of the wrong behavior. From that point on any form of feedback I got from management came with a heavy dose of negativity about me – I felt like I was always doing something wrong, and the thing wrong changed on a daily basis. Eventually I got tired of trying to “be good” without any idea of what that meant or feedback on whether I was achieving it, and gave up.

    Even though I got the apology, I still knew that some coworkers thought those things about me, and that soured my entire experience at the job. I didn’t work directly with many people and it was a small company to begin with, there were only 2-3 people that could have contributed. Ultimately this was the impetus for me finding a new job. Among numerous other issues, who wants to work with someone that is willing to write on paper that you’re toxic and abusive? Those are words for people that you remove from your life for your own safety. That was in my mind every time I talked to one of the potential reviewers.

    1. Lunavesca*

      The office Mean Girl was the other person who got one of these “honest” reviews, actually, before the owner realized he maybe shouldn’t do things this way. She cried (“No one has ever said such mean things to me before!”). She then proceeded to ignore everything she was told, because she “knew” it wasn’t true. The example thing she told me that was blatantly false was that she was the office clique leader and it was causing work issues – she was, and it did, and frankly I’m shocked someone was actually brave enough to include that.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I mean, this is the exact problem with going about it this way – it’s as likely that poor performers will ignore feedback as “mean” and “untrue”, as that good performers will take actually spiteful/exaggerated/invented criticism to heart, and it ends up being entirely useless to everyone.

  37. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    They did this in one of my year long college classes that involved working together in a business. We all evaluated each other at the end of the year and the advisor reviewed them with us, except he summarized them first and gave us copies of everyone’s notes after. It was absolutely brutal because his interpretation was WAY off from the notes and literally had me sobbing because I thought everyone hated me. The notes from my classmates actually had some minor constructive criticism and were generally supportive. Still brought my grade down a letter. Found out a couple months later he had a brain tumor and he didn’t live much longer which unfortunately explained why this man who was beloved by previous students told me I was selfish and lazy(!).
    There are good ways to give feedback and there are bad ways. This doesn’t seem particularly constructive or helpful and I understand why you would have trouble moving on emotionally.

  38. planetmort*

    I had this same thing go down with a position several years ago and was agog. Simply cutting the names off of feedback and sending it along verbatim is nearly useless, IMO. I spent so many hours agonizing over a few negative comments, and also some of the wording of feedback that was informative, but nevertheless worded in somewhat overly hurtful ways. I was also upset because my own feedback was probably identifiable, since my writing style was somewhat distinct from that of my colleagues. I gave my own feedback that the managers should synthesize feedback themselves for their reports, but was told straight up that that was too much work for them. So dysfunctional!

  39. Forky*

    Oh god, I’m going through something like this at work right now. My boss knows I’m on the autism spectrum and has been “helpfully” telling me that I’ve offended people by saying things, but not who or what specifically.

    Does it resonate? Yep, I’ve definitely accidentally offended people before despite my best efforts (people are weird and hard to predict!). But on the other hand, I know for an absolute fact that more than one person at previous jobs has deliberately and maliciously targeted me because I’m known for saying the wrong thing and won’t be believed if I protest. So how to know what to do with anonymous feedback like this? Usually, I just cry and try to guess who to avoid in the future.

    1. Koala dreams*

      If the comments were so forgettable that the boss neither remembers the contents nor who was offended, then they weren’t very offensive. In your shoes, I would be glad to know that I hadn’t made any comments so bad as to be memorable, and annoyed that the boss was so bad at giving feedback. Everybody say something wrong sometimes, and sometimes what you say get misunderstood. It’s no use in brooding over things that you might have said differently.

      If you feel your boss is treating you worse because of your disability, you might want to talk to HR or to a lawyer.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I’ve been through that. I’m sorry you are going through it. You could tell him that without specifics you don’t know what to do differently, but in general, they won’t tell you specifics bc they don’t want you retaliating against people. This isn’t a personal thing that they think you would do, it’s more a general practice surrounding complaints.

      1. Forky*

        The suggested course of action is “talk less.” Which sounds easy, but for an autistic extrovert who has to initiate conversations or else she comes off as to intimidating/uninterested to talk to… It’s understandable, but so, so hard.

  40. Macgillicuddy*

    Some years ago I had an experience with 360 reviews that had some positive results. Everyone had to do 360 reviews for their boss. Our group worked for a boundary-free, inept, micromanaging boss who had previously been a peer (who was poor to mediocre as an individual contributor but thought she was the universe’s great gift to our profession). I’ll call her Dolores (as in Umbridge). She frequently threw obstacles in our paths, sabotaged our work under the guise of “helping”.
    We (her reports) met on the sly to discuss how to handle the 360s. We decided that each of us would only cite examples where Dolores‘ actions had affected that person individually. And we would describe observable behavior and results, and keep feelings out of it.
    The examples were legion! It took me 2 days to write and refine what I eventually submitted. Similar efforts from my coworkers.
    Dolores’ boss was a good manager. We (her reports) would have LOVED to be flies-on-the-wall when Dolores & the manager met. Dolores was the most self-UNaware person I’ve ever known.
    Evidentially Dolores was completely gobsmacked by the feedback. She made a comment in our weekly group meeting, something like “well, it seems I haven’t been doing as well as I thought”.
    Dolores did slightly improve after that, so I have to give her credit. But only slightly. She clearly took the review to heart and wanted to improve, but so many of her behaviors were so ingrained. Still, we wouldn’t have seen any changes if it hadn’t been for those 360s.
    I left that job about a year later, but Dolores’ horrible behavior followed me for a few years after that – the way Alison talks about how your perspective gets warped by a dysfunctional workplace. A friend told me I had PTSD from my years of working for Dolores. (My coworkers and I all thought about leaving, but this was during a dip in the economy and jobs were scarce).
    So I read the OP’s letter with a degree of skepticism- even though I agree that the OP’s boss handled it very badly. But after my experience with Dolores, I also wondered a bit about the OP’s self-awareness.

  41. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    This is why I hate those 360 reviews. In a perfect world, they can be a great way to find out how to improve and succeed. But in the real world, they are often a disaster. The feedback can be very politically motivated. What if the reviewer for some reason has it in for the reviewee? What if the reviewer is jealous of the reviewee for getting that promotion, or even getting a compliment on a job well done? What if the reviewer is immature and is getting revenge on the reviewee for not giving them their way? What if the reviewer is just mean and takes pleasure in toying with a co-worker’s career? There can be a lot of factors that make the 360 review a bad idea. They are often very subjective.

    I once had a 360 review where I had to nominate a certain number of people to review me. I worked remotely and didn’t really work that closely with that many internal people, so a few of the people who I nominated (because I was forced to have a certain number) declined. When I got my review, I was in trouble for that. My manager said it was a “red flag.” I was baffled. What my manager should have done was to let me know that Fergus and Jane declined, and helped me identify others who could review me as a peer. It was just lazy managing on my manager’s part.

    Another thing that was annoying was that one person said I was a great team player (with no detail). And another said I needed to be more of a team player (with no detail). Lazy Manager focused on the negative team player feedback and ignored the positive team player feedback.

    But then again, in this company, everyone got scathing reviews, so I wasn’t alone. Very glad I am out of there!

    1. Middle Manager*

      I definitely experienced that in a 360 I had to do recently. Some of the people I got to choose, but some where required (direct reports, certain peer roles). Two of the required people were a direct report that I was working towards terminating and a person who applied for my current job and has held a grudge ever since I’ve been promoted. I crossed my fingers and hoped they would be professional about it since I had no choice in the matter. They weren’t. In the otherwise really positive review they left really petty negative comments, random negatives with no context that made no sense. It was really obvious where the comments were coming from, but it made me really doubt the whole process. I mean, even though I “know” the vast majority of those comments were from them, it’s not like I’m perfect and some negatives may have been from other people/not a personal attack, but they basically got drowned out by the absurd comments. I tried my best to be open to all the comments and examine if they had validity. My boss did try to help me sort out what was valid as well, so I appreciated that. But overall, I would say the experience left me with a lot of doubts about the 360 process.

  42. Paperdill*

    I was a 6 months out of uni new graduate RN, when I received on my review the anonymous feedback that I was “brusk, overbearing and abrasive”. 15 year after it still hurts. Even after it occurred to me that the manager really shouldn’t have let that particular bit of feedback through to me unfiltered.

    1. always a nurse*

      I used to hate the ones like: “I had a patient family complaint that you were “not nice” to the family. We have a mission statement that says we will always be patient/family focused. Be nice to families!” without any hint of what behavior was considered “not nice.” Was it the time I declined to go to the cafeteria to get “hotter” coffee for the daughter because I was passing 9 am meds to 5 patients? Perhaps it was the time I reminded a family member that they had to comply with the isolation procedures and couldn’t sit at grandpa’s bedside without wearing a mask and gown? (Yep, I know they are hot and uncomfortable, as I gown/mask for the 3rd time in 45 minutes….)

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I know, feedback should be specific. And it should address a pattern, not a one-off situation. Wow, what a brat that girl was that she wanted you to go and get her hotter coffee.

    2. Well, there's this*

      I got the ‘brusque and abrasive’ feedback a long time ago. It was during a period of time when I was advocating for my client because my company wasn’t delivering on something the client purchased.

      I’m guessing you’re a woman (if my guess is wrong, please disregard the rest of this comment). I’ve never heard of a man getting these particular words in their feedback.

  43. Mellow*

    So sick of the peer review concept. Students peer-review one another’s papers; what makes them experts? What makes an employee an expert on another employee?

    This is a silly, obnoxious, and LAZY way for management to crowd-source its own management skills (or lack of), with no controls for ax-grinding.

    Makes me want to positively scream.

  44. LGC*

    Are you sure your manager isn’t actually named Siri? I’m not sure Alexa is capable of messing up this badly.

    Anyway, aside from that…this is a lot, and I’d suggest (if you haven’t done so) getting a nice, comforting drink of your choice (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic) before going back to Alexa. I mean, I get it – this sounds really difficult to hear (okay, it is really difficult to hear)! But it also sounds like you might work in a pit of voles vipers. So I feel like there’s one of two things going on here:

    1) The feedback is harsh, but fair. In that case, it doesn’t matter who it came from, or whether you’re able to confront them by Wednesday of next week about it. Even jerks can be right about some things. Or…
    2) Because you work in a vole viper pit, this was a hit on you. In which case, they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re jerks.

    I don’t want to repeat what Alison said per se about Alexa handling this terribly – because regardless of whether or not the feedback is valid, it sounds like Alexa should have vetted the comments better. And I think that’s the main point of the letter – whatever you’re feeling is in large part because of Alexa mishearing “How do I do a performance review?” as “How do I do a poo on my reports?” But also…like, look, I know that we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word, and you say you’re normally very good at receiving constructive feedback. And people are definitely allowed to have moments of weakness (I mean, I had multiple ones last week). But LW, this letter reads a bit like you’re taking this very personally. And I don’t think you should take it personally, because the hurtful feedback is at least as much about them as it is about you. (Okay, even though it was written about you. I’m imagining this was written in a hurtful way, though, which makes it at least as much about their inability to artfully phrase it.)

    You still get to have a bit of a cry about it (outside of work), but I don’t think approaching it as an injustice against you is going to help you much.

    1. LGC*

      So, tl;dr – don’t go in guns blazing (because I kind of get the sense LW wants to). Either you look like you can’t handle valid feedback or you give the bullies what they want.

  45. Adultiest Adult*

    Oh, OP, if you’re reading this, know that I sympathize. The fact that this has happened to so many people (judging by the comments) doesn’t take away from the fact that this is terrible management. Anonymous feedback of this type isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I’ve had this done to me, and I understand your impulse to want to know who you’re bothering or offending so much who didn’t have the grace to tell you so you could work it out in good faith. And yes, the manager’s job is to synthesize the feedback and address themes they think are relevant and will help you improve, not give audience to every complaint everyone has ever had about you. Done poorly, this kind of feedback is demoralizing and damages trust among the team.

    As a manager, I refuse to handle feedback this way. I encourage my direct reports as a first line of action to address their concerns directly with the other person, and to come back to me if they are unable to resolve the issue on their own (with exceptions for serious issues affecting health and safety, including harassment.) I’ve learned that people greatly prefer this approach.

    When I experienced this issue of harsh feedback myself not long ago, I found it comforting to remind myself of a story about animals judging a singing contest. “I’m sorry I let myself be judged by a pig.” Reflect upon this experience, for sure, but also recognize that not all feedback is good or useful feedback. And now you know something important about your manager…

  46. Doctor Schmoctor*

    These things are anonymous for a reason. It is so that people can give honest feedback without fear of retaliation.

    Sure, your manager handled it wrong, but you wanting to know who said what is just as bad. Take the feedback and try to learn from it. But whatever you do, do not try to get your manager to tell you who said what about you. It won’t solve anything, and will only make everything worse. Your team will have a reason to not like you.

    We do this anonymous feedback thing every year, and I can assure you, if we found out it wasn’t actually anonymous people would revolt and quit.

  47. Traveling Teacher*

    Oh no, OP! This whole situation makes me think of Lucy and the Sorceror’s book in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (a book in the Narnia series). Lucy is alone with the Magician’s book and looking for a certain remedy, but she stumbles upon a spell that promises to let her know exactly what her friends think of her. All over the magical page, she can see conversations between people. She says the spell over a miniature of two friends talking and overhears some awful stuff! Lucy feels awful and angry and begins to cry, thinking over what she knows to be true about her friendships with each of the girls. Aslan, of course, shows up, asks her why she did it, and then tells her that both of the girls were trying to impress one another and, in so doing, Lucy simply became their target. Lucy feels slightly better, but she notes that now she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to feel the same towards either of them, having heard the words.

    Obviously, your situation is a bit different, as you did not voluntarily choose to read the feedback word-for-word, but you’ve already made a good point: that management is very political and that perhaps they said these things to protect themselves from closer scrutiny by trying to take down others. That’s what I would be more worried about than the individual feedback. (However, think over it first and be honest with yourself: do they have any valid points? Anything you really should change?) What’s the harm in sending out a few applications to try to distance yourself from the toxic-sounding management at this company?

  48. misspiggy*

    All these terrible stories are making me wonder why I never had a problem with the 360 reviews in my former workplace, even though they passed on comments verbatim and in meetings. At first we didn’t know colleagues would receive our comments directly.

    I think it was OK because the 360s were never formally linked to compensation or advancement, taking place at a different time of year to annual reviews. Questions were carefully worded to require constructiveness. And most people were generally…nice.

    Perhaps that’s the point – if you haven’t already built up a culture of mutual support in your organisation, be very careful how you use 360 reviews.

    1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      We do 360 as part of our annual review, and my supervisor often includes quotes (although I am never privy to who said what). The key reason I’m OK with it is that my boss is good at synthesizing comments to make a rating and using the quotes only to support her theme. Also, our 360s have guided questions that are meant to deter personality comments and result in feedback attributed to our company’s goals and values. Open ended comments in a 360 with a boss who is not good at summarizing them appropriately is the kiss of death.

  49. Magenta*

    I’ve had some terrible experiences with 360 feedback, one time the manager “summarised” it, which involved listing only the comments that were different. There was a team of 20, all of whom said i was really good at my job and my knowledge was great, which gave me 2 positive comments, then all the negatives were different and he listed them all, things like, people disliking my “mannerisms” or not liking that I joined in with conversations that were happening around me. There were a few positive comments and about a dozen negative ones that were mostly petty with no constructive elements suggesting how I could improve.
    I eventually got my manager to then list the number of times the comments had been maid, all the positives were multiple and the negatives singular, but originally the review had looked like i was terrible and everyone hated me.

    A different manager handled things really differently, someone had said I played favourites with my team, giving people I liked more interesting work. My manager knew that there were some people in the team who were not good at some things, despite repeated coaching, and that is why i was distributing specific tasks to specific people. But he told me what people were saying, because he felt I needed to know so I could address it and work on the perceptions.

    Negative feedback can be helpful, but how it is handled is really important.

  50. NYWeasel*

    One time, a previous manager had us do an “instant feedback session” as a “team building” activity. We had to write both a strength and a weakness of each person, and then share them OUT LOUD to everyone else in the room and discuss our feelings about the feedback.

    In my case, my strength in managing details was also what drove everyone crazy (“Too much detail!!!”), so I wasn’t even sure how to proceed—nor could my boss give me any solid advice. And having to face everyone as I read through the negative stuff was sheer torture.

    My current manager never shares identifying details, and she also filters out pointless feedback. I try to do the same with my team. For example, Sansa was thrown a last minute project and then ended up sick as a dog during the kickoff. So there’s not really any value in beating Sansa up about how Project X’s kickoff was “Disorganized and a waste of time!” She knows it already.

  51. Squeeze of Lemon*

    As someone who works with students and receives their reviews word-for-word, I can really empathize. And many students don’t apply any sort of professional filter – they unload their rude and judgemental comments fully expecting they’ll never have to see you/work with you again.

    Another big thing missing from Alexa’s process is that she gave you the feedback right then and there and expected you to process it in front of her. It would be not only kinder, but also more productive, if you received the feedback in the advance. You could read in your own time, cry if needed, and then be prepared to discuss professionally at your next meeting.

  52. Kristinyc*

    For OP1 – what about people with kids? Are married people allowed to bring their kids, or do they suddenly have to find overnight childcare to go on this trip? That seems like a huge burden. And if they don’t bring their spouse, then there’s the resentment of “my spouse is going on a beach vacation and I’m home with the kids”

    1. Kristinyc*

      Ooops, thought this was part of the morning post. Need more coffee. (Alison – feel free to delete my comments)

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