Manager feedback is one of our best options for personal and professional development. The problem is that feedback makes most of us anxious because there’s always a real chance that the feedback going to sting. We want the companies we work for to invest in our growth, but too many of us let our feedback phobia get in the way of our development. We’ve got to kick the phobia. If you really want to grow, you’ll face your fear by asking for feedback from your manager directly. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but let’s just assume that your professional development is worth the discomfort and suck it up. To help you suck it up, here are some DOs and DON’Ts for requesting and receiving feedback:
DO ask for feedback directly. If you want to receive extra feedback, ask for it directly and make sure that you explain that you are asking for the kind of feedback that is honest and focuses on areas that need improvement.
DON’T try to force the issue. Not all managers will be willing to give you additional feedback. Seriously. Explain that you aren’t asking for their time so you can bask in your glory — you want direct feedback on areas where he or she sees the need or possibility for improvement. Some managers still don’t want to have any more coaching conversations than are required by HR or their boss and will still turn that down. Acknowledge that you respect that and ask if they would be comfortable with you seeking feedback from other sources (e.g., another manager, a more senior employee). As long as the feedback source is someone who is familiar with your work and can provide meaningful feedback, they are a potential feedback source.
DO ask for the rough stuff. It’s important to know what you’re doing well, but its the conversations around what isn’t going well that force you to grow.
DON’T end a feedback conversation without identifying opportunities for improvement. Positive feedback is wonderful. It feels good to know we’re on the right track, hitting our goals, and meeting/exceeding expectation. But that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities to improve even further.
DO ask for feedback often. There’s always something you can be doing better. One-time feedback might help you address a few existing opportunities but it won’t put you on a broader growth path. If you want long-term growth, ask for feedback often.
DON’T forget that giving honest feedback isn’t exactly a cakewalk for your manager. If you’re not ready to have an honest conversation that involves hearing tough things , then don’t put your manager through that.
DO spare your boss the tears. Work on getting more comfortable with taking negative feedback and recognize that negative feedback doesn’t mean you are a bad person… just means you’re like the rest of us. We all have areas we can improve in. If you burst into tears when your boss gives you feedback, you’ll never really get to have a deeper conversation that will help you grow.
DON’T challenge what he or she has to say. This isn’t a debate. If you aren’t open to the idea that there are areas for you to improve (which means hearing less-than-glowing information), don’t put your manager through that. Hear them out and fight your urge to protest.
DO ask questions. Specifically, non-combative questions that will deepen your understanding of their perspective, soak on it and then actually use the feedback to improve.
The more you ask for and receive feedback, the more comfortable you’ll get with it. Remember that most people (bosses included) don’t like having conversations around things that have a high likelihood of making someone feel uncomfortable/unpleasant. If your boss is willing to spend their time and energy giving you this feedback, respect that this isn’t an easy conversation for them either by forgoing the tears and debate. The more honest feedback you take in and address, the more you’ll grow.