Peer reviews: participant initiated vs peer initiated

When creating a review cycle as a review admin, you get to select which types of reviews you want to include— self, manager, peer, and/or upward. If you choose to include peer reviews in your cycle, you also have the option to make the peer reviews participant initiated or peer initiated. What is the difference? What does science say about the two? What does each process look like? All of those questions will be answered in this article.

In this article you will learn...

Participant initiated reviews

What is it?

Participant initiated reviews are driven by the participant. The participant is in control of who their peers are and the participant's manager can approve or deny the peers. There is an option for managers to nominate peers on behalf of the participant, but we do recommend the participant be in charge of nominating the peers they work closely with.

Visibility is set by the review administrator(s) during cycle creation. Options are fully transparent, anonymous to the participant, and fully anonymous. 

What does the science say?

In terms of the peer nomination process, research shows employee participation in the process increases perceived fairness, which increases the likelihood for a successful review. Furthermore, participant initiated peer reviews increase the amount of solicited feedback in organizations, and promote cultures characterized by high psychological safety. Teams with high psychological safety feel safe to seek feedback from others, which in turn improves performance in organizations. Lastly, research shows 360° peer feedback for development increases performance, goal orientation, and the growth mindset. This differs from traditional performance appraisals where it’s common for superiors to evaluate their subordinates only.

What does the process look like?

Peer initiated reviews

What is it?

Peer initiated reviews are driven by the peer. In peer initiated reviews, the peer is in control of who they write peer reviews of. There is not an approval process for peer initiated reviews. 

Visibility is set by the review administrator(s) during cycle creation. Options are fully transparent, anonymous to participant, for fully anonymous. 

What does the science say?

Although the science does not necessarily encourage peer initiated reviews, we understand it might be desired for your company. Research shows that most of the time, feedback (of all different kinds) fails. The fallacy of real-time feedback becomes apparent when systems of unsolicited, manager-driven feedback are implemented. These systems trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response when constructive feedback is unexpectedly received, making it unlikely that the person will act on it. Organizations can never completely avoid situations of unsolicited, manager-driven feedback; but they can increase the amount of effective feedback by giving employees the tools to actively seek it.



Select the 'Peer initiated' option only if your employees know what makes peer feedback effective and actionable. Learn more about the best practices for giving feedback.



If peer initiated reviews are included in a review cycle, we recommend 1) setting visibility to something other than fully anonymous and 2) enabling the setting that allows reviewers and review administrators to remove answers from peer + upward reviews. These two settings will create a safeguard, allowing for the peer initiated feedback to be reviewed and/or removed, if needed, before being shared with the participant.

What does the process look like?

  • The peer selects which participant(s) they would like to write a peer review about
  • The peer writes and submits their peer review without any approvals
  • Managers of review cycle participants are alerted when someone submits a peer review about their direct report(s)
  • Before sharing the peer initiated reviews, managers look over the content and remove any feedback that is not helpful
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