Asking Your Manager for Feedback

We received the following question from a reader:

“My boss hasn't given me feedback in a while and I'm not sure if they know exactly what I've been working on. How do I discuss it with them?"

We have different approaches for how we handle this situations so here are both of our takes on it. There’s no right or wrong way but hopefully this gives you some guidance.

N: I would do the following things:

  • Schedule a brief catch up as soon as possible (over coffee, lunch, or simply knock on the door and ask if he's/she's available for 15 minutes)
  • In the discussion, suggest informal check ins every 4-6 weeks. In these catch ups, you are looking to share with him/her high-level details on the assignments you've been working on and get constructive feedback on prior tasks/projects.
  • If your boss is more formal, ask if you can schedule brief meetings in advance to specifically discuss your performance. Share that it's important to you to consistently seek feedback and improve.

Remember it's not a venting session, it's about being open in receiving constructive feedback, discussing the success/pitfalls of the work you've been doing, highlighting your growth from those experiences (no matter how shitty certain assignments may have been!). At the same time, don’t be afraid to suggest improvements in a process or channel "bad" news upwards.

A: It’s really important to be receiving consistent feedback from your manager, so it’s great that you are seeking it out. Managers are busy and sometimes need a reminder of what is expected of them as well as a refresher of what you have been working on.

Before any catch up I have with a manager, I take a few seconds to jot down important points I want to address. This could be projects and people you’ve worked on/with in the last couple of months and any other notable accomplishments you are proud of.

Then put 30 minutes on their calendar for an “Informal Catch Up” about 1 week in advance and mention that you would like to obtain feedback. Start the conversation by being complimentary and positive and let them know that you are eager to learn and grow and you value any feedback they have on your performance. Remind them of the important tasks you have been involved in and let them know if it was enjoyable, educational, and what the main takeaways from that are. I agree with N that this is not the time to vent about things you don’t like to do.

It’s important to be a good receiver of constructive criticism and feedback. Do not be defensive and try to provide explanations if he/she says something you do not agree with. Listen carefully, take notes, and try to understand why a miscommunication may have occurred. Ask questions on how to avoid that specific instance in the future.

I always end the conversation by thanking them for their time and honest feedback and stating that it’s a priority for me to self-improve and be a strong member of the team. You can also mention that you hope that you are on track for a promotion (if that’s the case) or wish to be considered for other opportunities on the team.

Quick note - Try not to take it personally if the meeting is pushed back or rescheduled multiple times. This happens frequently and we have to remember they are busy people and it doesn’t mean that you are not a priority to them.

We love hearing from you so please send us your questions and we will answer one question every Tuesday!