Being a rater in a multi-rater survey is both an honor and a duty. It is an honor as you have an opportunity to contribute to a person’s growth and career trajectory in a way that many do not–through providing valuable feedback that could help them focus their professional development. It is a duty because it can be challenging to provide effective and useful feedback that makes a difference in that person’s life and career. You might worry about your impact on that person and how they might receive the feedback. You could be in a time crunch and find that it is quicker and easier to provide blanket high or low scores. Or, you might be uncertain how to evaluate that person on specific competencies. Below, we outline some key points for you to consider when providing this type of feedback.
Consider the purpose of the feedback. The majority of multirater processes are purely developmental, and you should treat them like that. If you are giving universally positive feedback–which tends to be a common issue–you are not doing that person any favors in growing their skillsets or identifying blindspots. If you tell me I’m amazing, i might believe that I have no where to improve. This could ultimately lead to complacency.
Be respectful, but be honest. Many leaders that we have worked with have rarely, if ever, received critical feedback in their careers. No one is perfect, but managers often lack to the courage to tell great, or even good, employees what they need to improve. Others might be overly blunt and sometimes harsh–we have seen multirater feedback that borders on uncivil. As a rater, your job is to find the balance between respect and bluntness. Certainly, outline strengths but do not hide improvement messages amidst a flurry of compliments. This will not be doing the leader a favor. Rather, be straightforward and respectful.
Consider the cost of the leader not receiving the feedback. Imagine being twenty years deep into your career and learning, for the first time, that you are not a good listener. That could be devastating, but also could be easy to disregard. You had, after all, made it twenty years without that feedback! It must not matter! Giving feedback early and frequently will only benefit a leader in the long run. Even if it hurts you a bit to provide the feedback, you ultimately owe them the truth.
Recognize that everyone is human. Even people who appear to be nearly perfect have nuances in their behavior. Pay attention to each individual behavior that you are rating each person on; just because a person is great at collaborating with his/her team, for instance, might not mean that they do it effectively with other departments. Conversely, even struggling performers have a few skills that stand out, and you can usually find them. Pay attention to your patterns of responding–if you are giving all fives or all ones, you are not adequately exploring nuances.
Rate what you know and what you see. Your vantagepoint, as a peer, direct report, stakeholder, or manager, is uniquely valuable. But, you may not have insight into every behavior. If, for instance, you have never seen the person present, then do not rate them on presentation skills. Don’t make assumptions, even if it would be easier. Choose Unable to Assess or similar and be careful that you do not overgeneralize.
Take your time. You are busy, like everyone. If you truly do not have time to rater a person, let them knw so they can find a replacement. However, if you do decide to rate them, it is your duty to read the instructions, read each item, and take the time necessary to provide accurate feedback.