Solicit Candid Peer Feedback with an Anxiety Party

More and more companies are ditching annual performance reviews for mechanisms that provide faster, friendlier feedback focused on personal growth. If you’re interested in exploring alternatives, be sure to design the process in such a way that 1) feels right for your culture, and 2) is aimed at the direct problem you’re trying to solve for.

I had a bunch of anxieties; I needed to know if they were well-founded or if I was worrying about things that were largely in my own head.
– Daniel Burka, Google Ventures Design Partner

If you’re a small team, operating at a breakneck pace, what can you do to formalize a process of rapid but substantive personal feedback?

If you’re Google Ventures, in place of a more formal performance review, you throw an “Anxiety Party.”

An Anxiety Party is a ritual that the design team at Google Ventures pioneered in place of a typical performance review. Because the team was flat and each member operated with little day-to-day interaction with their colleagues, they found that reviewing one another’s performance would be moot. However, the team still needed a forum to air their personal worries and seek one another’s counsel. In response, they created an “Anxiety Party” where each team member could openly admit to a concern and seek feedback from their peers.

How to Throw an Anxiety Party

  1. Set aside an hour for your team to gather.
  2. Spend the first ten minutes writing down things you worry about related to a project or your performance, e.g. “I’m worried I’m not communicating enough with the team.” Write one concern per card or sheet of paper.
  3. Sort your own anxieties in order from most to least severe in terms of immediate concern.
  4. Ask each team member to share their most immediate concern with the group. Go around and around until all concerns have been shared.
  5. For each concern mentioned, ask the group to rank it. A zero would constitute, “It never even occurred to me that this was an issue,” to a five, “I strongly believe you need to improve in this area.”
  6. For any issues that scored a 3 or higher averaged across the group, brainstorm ways to overcome the concern. Set actionable goals, e.g. “ I will set up weekly ten minute check-ins with each group member so we stay better connected.”
  7. Repeat this process as needed. We recommend quarterly.


Published February 12, 2016