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Performance review season is rapidly approaching at my company, and our manager's manager has asked us to help her by creating a word document that has a list of our achievements from the past year and share it with her and our direct manager.

Additionally, she has asked us, in the same document to do our review of our direct manager.

I've tried convincing her that this is a bad idea, but she didn't seem to get the point that I was making - I don't believe it's a good idea for my direct manager to have access to my review of her before she's done the review of me. If I give a bad review, it could subconsciously cause my manager give a worse review of me, and if I give a glowing review, it could similarly cause her give a better review of me than I actually deserve.

What kinds of things should I say to her to convince her that this is a bad idea?

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    How confident are you that she's missing the point you want to make, as opposed to having the process setup explicitely to 'encourage' you to submit a glowing review? – Jeffrey Nov 20 '18 at 19:38
  • I'm fairly confident that's not the case. She's otherwise a great manager, and in this case the review wouldn't even be of her, but of my direct manager (who is responsible for reviewing me as well) – user3246152 Nov 20 '18 at 19:40
  • The issue seems to be with the implementation rather than the idea. I don't see why there's a need for the manager to access their subordinates' reviews before in turn reviewing the subordinates. I've worked for employers who ran review systems including subordinate reviews of management, but the reviews were all locked "in escrow" until everyone's review of everyone else was finished, and then they were made available for discussion as appropriate. This way, there's no possibility of a feedback loop causing skewed reviews (in either direction). – dwizum Nov 20 '18 at 20:22
  • How did you try to convince her? – sf02 Nov 20 '18 at 21:16
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This sounds like a mixture of a 360 review and a performance review. These things should be distinct and separate. 360 reviews are generally angled at garnering constructive feedback to help the subject improve, whereas performance reviews are ultimately judgements that may impact their employment.

What kinds of things should I say to her to convince her that this is a bad idea?

Ask questions of her to discern what she really wants you to do, and to highlight the challenges you see. E.g. "Since this feedback may affect my manager's review of my performance, should I write this up and then wait to share my feedback until afterwards?"

Oh, and always write feedback as though it will be read by the person it is about. Even if you end up sending it only to your manager's manager. Keeps things constructive, and helps you sleep at night too.

  • 360 reviews are baloney in general, and certainly if not anonymous through outside vendor. Even then, only realistic if being participated by quite a number of subordinates. Stress the bolded part above. Do not write a negative review. – paulj Nov 21 '18 at 13:28
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This is simply a bad idea from the manager but in this case you need to be direct with the manager:

Hey manager, I am concerned that if my direct manager has access to my review of them, then it could influence their review of myself either positively or negatively

She may realize that her method is no good, or she may not care and continue anyway but unless you are direct you will never know for sure.

Also, keep in mind that if you are worried that your direct manager will be biased based upon your review of them it doesn't matter if they see your review before or after they give you a review. If it is after, they can wait until next year to use your review to harm or help you and they can also use that review at any time throughout the year to harm or help you.

If you ultimately can't trust your direct manager with honest constructive feedback then maybe you should start looking for a different company to work for.

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The thing that will help the most is to frame it around general and hypothetical situations. You should not even remotely hint that your current manager might possibly be affected.

Rather, talk about the general norms of the industry or even of other industry. Why reviewers in academia are double-blind, for example. Frame it as something absolutely optional but that you happen to care about. As if your were nitpicky, or if you wanted to raise the bar super high. "It is not needed at the moment, but in the future we may have someone that could be affected."-type comment.

That way, you make it clear you absolutely don't think your manager could be affected/biased (even if in reality you do). You also don't give the impression of thinking her idea were half-baked.

If you have colleagues who think the same way, encourage them to just ask "is it a good idea that feedback is not secret until the end of reviews?". Questions will trigger people actually thinking the process through. Or just ask: "what could be the implications of the reviews being visible?". People react much better to them realizing something than to other telling them they knew that already.

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Somebody else suggested Always write feedback as though it will be read by the person it is about. This is excellent advice. It's your path through this rather strange situation.

When "reviewing" your manager, write three specific, positive, and true things that relate to your own accomplishments. "Steve reviewed a draft of my XYZ project plan; his useful suggestions kept me from going in the wrong direction." That kind of thing.

And be done with it. If your manager deserves a bad review, this is not the place for it, and you are not the person to do it.

You've already spoken to your manager's manager about the situation. She is not going to say, "OK, you're right, let's just stop doing this." You've expressed your misgivings and given her something to think about. That's good. And it's enough.

Now you should just finish the task. Don't worry about being wrong or right; you aren't in a position, yet, to reform the way your company handles these reviews.

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