How to ask for feedback


How to ask for feedback

How are you doing at work? Do you really know? Maybe it’s been ages since your last appraisal, or maybe you’ve got a boss who tells you when you’ve screwed up but not much else, or maybe you’re not sure because you haven’t asked for feedback. What’s stopping you? Reasons I hear from people include:

  • I haven’t got time to ask
  • The person I want to ask is always too busy
  • I might hear something I don’t want to
  • The person I ask might think I’m a complete creep
  • I’m not sure how to ask

Let’s deal with each of those responses:

  • You do have the time, because a) it won’t take more than a few minutes to ask for and get feedback and b) if you haven’t got time to find out how you’re doing at work, what on earth are you doing instead? Your performance and progress is not some lowly priority to fall off the end of your to-do list.
  • Of course the person you want to ask is busy – everyone’s busy. So you may need to pick your moment carefully. It may be before or at the end of a meeting, or whilst travelling to and from one, or at the beginning or end of a project. Ideally ask at both ends – before and after. Remember that feedback is simply part of how people work, so don’t make it a big deal; build into everyday interactions.
  • Yes, you might hear something you don’t want to – that’s part of the deal. But wouldn’t you rather be the first person to hear about how you’re getting something wrong? The sooner you know, the sooner you can address the issue. If you need any more reassurance, just ask a more experienced friend or trusted colleague what they’ve learned from getting feedback (positive and otherwise), and I’m willing to bet they learned heaps from hearing something that was pretty hard to take at the time. I know that’s true for me.
  • Creeps ask for feedback with pleading, sometimes throwing in cutesy mannerisms, being needy and not very grown-up. You’re not going to do that. You’re going to simply ask.

OK, you might need some help on how to ask. Most of us find the hardest part is starting the conversation. Resist the temptation to dress it up in niceties and verbiage – you’ll only confuse at best and cause unease at worst. Try these openers:

  • “I’d really value your feedback on how I handled that last project. What do you think went well?” 
  • “Could you give me some feedback? I know I need to work on [insert skill you need to develop, such as running meetings, writing presentations, dealing with more senior clients] so would appreciate your observations on this next one.” 
  • “You know we talked a few weeks back about how I need to speak up in meetings? Can I ask you for some feedback after this next one?” “It would be really helpful if you could give me some feedback on what I need to improve.”

Depending on the response you get, one or some of these questions will help you move the conversation along to specifics you can commit to.

“How can I handle that more effectively?” “What specifically can I do that will show you I’m doing [task] well?” “What would you do differently in this situation?”

And then what?

  • Listen well to what your feedback giver says and make a note of it. Whilst you’re writing they may offer further suggestions.
  • Thank your feedback giver. No matter how tough it might have been to hear, gratitude and graciousness are the watchwords for receiving feedback in the moment.
  • Commit to take action.




Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’ 


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