Writing a self-evaluation can be a nerve-wracking experience. After all, there's perhaps nothing more awkward than being asked to sing your own praises and simultaneously highlight your own flaws as an employee. But if you think self-evaluations are bad, try having to critique your peers.

These days, many companies have employees evaluate their colleagues (and sometimes managers, too). That feedback might then be used to help craft official reviews and, in some cases, help determine whether workers get a raise or not.

Man filling out a document


Being asked to write a peer evaluation, therefore, can put you in an awkward position. If you're too honest, you might cost someone you know and like a pay boost or promotion. If you gloss over important flaws in an attempt to help a colleague look better, you put yourself at risk. Here are a few tips for tackling those peer evaluations -- without losing your mind in the process.

1. Be honest but diplomatic

Hiding your colleagues' key flaws on their peer evaluations isn't going to do them -- or you -- any favors. The reason? If you have a reasonably intelligent manager, he or she will probably be aware of your peers' shortcomings, so pretending that you work with a bunch of perfect people who never slip up is a good way to get your boss annoyed at you. Instead, be honest. If your colleague is great at data analysis but bad at meeting deadlines, say so rather than cover up the latter.

But say so diplomatically. You might try something like, "Bob does a great job of presenting data and identifying trends. Sometimes, however, he gets so caught up in his work that it comes in late." You'll still get the same message across, only you're being just a little less harsh to Bob.

2. Support your assertions with data

Whether you're writing your own evaluation or somebody else's, having data to back up your claims will make for a more solid review. If you want to applaud your co-worker for her marketing prowess, you might say something like "Sally's last few marketing campaigns were well received by more than 90% of our focus group participants. It's clear that she's an expert marketer with good insights." And that'll hold a lot more weight than "Sally's a great marketer."

3. Try not to let your personal relationships cloud your judgment

When you're friends with your co-workers, assessing their performance becomes even more challenging. After all, it's natural to want to talk them up and make them look as good on paper as possible. But in reality, you shouldn't let your friendships (or lack thereof) influence the content of your peer evaluations. Rather, focus on your colleagues' abilities and performance. Your pal Mary might be the kindest person you know, but if she's not the strongest writer on your team, don't say that she is.

4. Don't rush through the process

The feedback you provide on a peer evaluation could help determine whether a colleague gets a bonus, raise, or promotion, so give that task the time and attention it deserves. Think about the way you're wording your answers, and aim to provide constructive criticism where appropriate that will help your colleagues grow professionally. After all, you'd want them to do the same for you.

Peer evaluations can be challenging to write -- even when you're able to do so anonymously, which is sometimes the case. But even if your name isn't going on that document, the above advice still applies, so use it to make the process more productive and less stressful.