How to Ask for Useful Feedback at Work

Giving FeedbackWhether you're a first-time consultant or a long-time, full-time employee, sometimes you just want to know how you’re really doing at work. Asking your boss or supervisor for performance feedback can be intimidating and uncomfortable. However, doing so promotes personal and professional development and success.

Here are some top strategies on how to ask for feedback effectively, efficiently, and productively.

Meet face-to-face
Don't settle for an email exchange. Set up time for a face-to-face discussion (or a video chat if necessary). The nuances of one-on-one communication are important, and you may learn just as much from your boss' tone of voice or body language as you do from his or her answers to your questions.  

Make your reason for requesting feedback clear
After the meeting has been set up, do some prep work. Suggest an agenda of specific topics you want to cover and prepare questions and potential talking points. 

Begin the meeting by expressing a desire to grow professionally. Try an opener such as, “I enjoy working here. I’m proud of the work I do. I respect your advice and want to get a clear sense of how you think I’m doing overall and how I can grow professionally.”

Also, demand honesty – if everything is merely “great” all the time, feedback is pointless.

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A statement such as, “Calling this meeting is important. I’d like to keep our line of communication open,” may help establish your continued desire to work smarter and harder.

Focus on improvement and opportunity
Adopt a positive approach that stems from a place of confidence, professional poise, and a desire to better yourself.

A question such as, “Where am I falling short performance wise on our latest data analytics project?” paints a grim picture of a less than capable you. But rephrasing the same question as something along the lines of, “What’s one specific area of improvement I can focus on this month?” helps a supervisor or boss recognize your desire to build a greater sense of rapport with colleagues and flourish long-term.

If you hope to expand your role, mention possible future projects you have a strong interest in tackling. “Hey, I was thinking about completely revamping our corporate intranet. I’d love to swing some ideas by you later this month.” Then suggest developing a specific timeline with outlined goals.

Be receptive
Don't ask for honest feedback if your plan is to rebut it or act defensively. Instead, "try not to judge any feedback you receive, whether it’s positive or negative, writes Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review. "Thank people for being honest with you and let them know that you find their observations and opinions helpful."

Consider getting a second opinion
The advice above notwithstanding, it's possible you may disagree with, or be disappointed in, the feedback you've received. If your meeting leaves you feeling especially defeated, consider asking another colleague for fresh feedback.

As long as your intentions are pure, you should feel comfortable asking bosses, co-workers and even clients for feedback with confidence and grace.