Learning & Development

How to Best Ask for Manager Feedback

By Celia Daniels for RallyBright

March 3, 2020

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Most people want a work experience where they’re given opportunities to grow. Managers and employees alike, though, can be reluctant to discuss shortcomings in the office. Manager feedback and other types of criticism that aren’t constructive can compromise effectiveness and harmony, which is the exact opposite of what most managers want.

Still, a good leader will want to help you grow and will seek to give you constructive feedback – especially if you proactively request it. To that end, here are a few guidelines for asking your manager for feedback.

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Reach out, Touch Base

Some managers don’t feel they have time to provide their team members with feedback outside of a yearly review. Others don’t want to cause in-office conflict and will, in turn, keep constructive criticism to themselves. As such, you may go several months without hearing a word about your performance.

If you’re not hearing anything from your manager, don’t take the lack of news as a good thing. If you do, you may find yourself blindsided when your year-end review comes around. Instead, seek to make yourself available to your manager. Establish a rapport and make it clear that you’re always looking for opportunities to grow. If your manager doesn’t take you up on these more subtle requests for feedback, then it’s time to be direct and ask for what you want.

Choose the Right Time to Ask for Feedback

So, the time’s come to directly ask your manager for feedback. Here’s the catch, though: your manager’s a busy person, and so are you. With that in mind, don’t spring a request for feedback on your manager without a bit of warning. There are times when it’s inappropriate to ask for feedback and times when it’s more fitting.

Try to avoid asking for feedback when:

  • You’re in the middle of a meeting
  • Your office is undergoing a significant change
  • Your manager is talking to another person

True, these may seem like obviously bad times to reach out to a manager. However, if a meeting’s not going in your favor, you may be tempted to ask for immediate input on ways you can improve for the sake of your team. While, on rare occasions, this kind of public feedback session may be useful, both you and your manager can more comfortably discuss your involvement when your coworkers are otherwise occupied.

If you’re looking for a better time to reach out for feedback, you can ask:

  • When you’re in a one-on-one with your manager
  • After a meeting has finished
  • During your performance review

Note too that you can always reach out and ask for feedback via email. Using an alternative means of communication like this will give your manager time to think about what they want to say and when they may have the availability to meet with you in person.

Create a Constructive, Supportive Environment

You don’t have to be best friends with your supervisor to receive constructive criticism. That said, a manager who feels as though they don’t know you well won’t be able to provide you with the feedback you need to maintain a growth mindset. As such, it’s on you to make sure that your manager feels comfortable being honest with you.

Before your meeting, behave graciously. Make it clear that you’re looking for feedback because you want to better contribute to your team’s success. If your manager trusts that you’ll be able to take criticism without internalizing it, they’ll be more forthcoming when discussing areas in which you can improve.

Ask the Right Questions

Sometimes, your manager will take the initiative once you’ve asked for feedback. They’ll give you a review of the behavior they’ve found relevant, and you’ll be able to build your own path forward with that feedback in mind. Other times, though, your manager may not know where to start when giving you feedback. In these situations, you’ll need to have questions ready to help dictate the tone of your one-on-one.

If you’re looking for a place to start your feedback session, you can ask any of the following questions:

  • “What have I been doing right?” While you don’t want to toot your own horn, it’s still good to know what kind of behaviors your manager appreciates.
  • “What would you like to see more of?” In a similar vein, you may already be displaying behaviors that your supervisor appreciates. Asking what they’d like to see more of gives you a path towards improvement.
  • “What would you like me to start doing?” If you’ve overlooked responsibilities at the office, this question allows your manager to point them out while remaining positive about your previous success. If you’re looking for more to do around the office, too, this question will give you the opportunities you were looking for.

Once you’ve gotten into the swing of your one-on-one, you can dive into the issues your manager brings up by asking more specific questions.

As your one-on-one comes to an end, though, don’t hesitate to ask for time to process your review. This processing time is especially important to take if the review takes a negative turn. Spend time away from the office thinking about any criticism your manager gave you. The more distance you put between yourself and the feedback, the simpler it will be to turn that feedback into actionable guidance.

Asking for feedback from your manager doesn’t just help you. Once you know what your strengths and weaknesses in the office are, you’ll be able to more readily support your team. If asking for constructive criticism is going to improve team dynamics and overall organizational performance, why wait?

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