To Get Better Feedback from Your Boss, Be Specific

Mitchell_get better feedback October 9. 2020 By: Barbara Mitchell

Asking “How am I doing?” isn’t likely to generate a helpful response from your manager. Try these tips for getting concrete feedback that can help you improve your performance and grow in your career.

Q: I’m not getting enough feedback from my manager, and this is especially difficult while we’re working remotely. I’d like some specific guidance on how my career is progressing, but no matter how I ask, she brushes me off and tells me not to worry about it. How can I get more specific feedback?

A: You’re right, it can be difficult enough to get some managers to provide feedback when everyone is working in the same office. Working remotely has made it even more of a challenge.

You may need to make your request a little differently—and more specifically—to get a more useful response. Asking for a specific time on her calendar will give her time to get her thoughts together, and having the conversation on the phone may provide the focused attention you’re seeking.

Here are a few tips for asking for professional feedback:

Don’t call it feedback. Be more specific. For example, say, “I’d really appreciate your thoughts on how my presentations at staff meetings could be better.” Or, “What suggestions do you have for improving how I manage Tom? He fights me when I give him direction.”

Ask in a timely manner. Schedule a one-on-one with your manager as soon as possible after a situation or incident that you’d like feedback on. Say, “I’d like to get on your calendar this week, if possible, to get your thoughts on the discussion we had with accounting yesterday. I’m not sure I described this issue as clearly as I might have, and I would appreciate your ideas.”

Try not to sound needy. Your request for your manager’s thoughts on how you can improve your performance should be future-focused and genuine. Make sure you don’t give the impression that you’re simply looking for approval or a pat on the back.

If you approach your manager in this way, you may get the specific information you crave. Then the responsibility is on you to use the feedback to grow and improve in your position.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to [email protected]