The Right Way to Ask for Performance Feedback

By Matt Tarpey, CareerBuilder writer

Criticism can be difficult to take, even for the most confident worker. However, feedback is absolutely essential if you want to get better at your job and be considered for potential advancement.

Here are four tips to help you get the most out of getting feedback from your boss:

1. Give notice

One trick to getting quality feedback from your manager is to give him or her some time to prepare. This will often result in a clearer review that will be easier to act upon.

“Set a meeting with your manager and let him or her know in advance that you would like feedback on your performance,” says Lidia Arshavsky, founder of JC Strategic, which provides resume writing and similar services to job seekers. “If the request comes as a surprise and your manager doesn't have a chance to think about it in advance, it may be rushed and not as thoughtful.”

2. Be specific

Before asking for employer feedback, give yourself a self-assessment. This will help you identify potential areas of improvement, which you can then frame your questions around.

“Often, it helps to provide a framework for the information you are seeking,” says Arshavsky. “So instead of asking for general ‘feedback,’ you can ask what your manager feels you are doing well, and what you should work on improving. Better yet, think about specific questions concerning your performance on key projects.”

As much as your questions should be clear and specific, so should your boss’s feedback.

“[Workers] should also be open to probing the managers for more information if the response is not clear enough,” says Fred Mouwad, entrepreneur and CEO of Taskworld. “After the feedback session, the employee should know exactly which areas they need to improve in and what the expected outcome is. This is an opportunity to reduce uncertainty about what it takes to perform.”

3. Think long term

While specificity is essential to getting useful feedback, don’t just focus on the short term. The goal is to improve your performance, which itself is a step towards your larger career goals. Keep these in mind, and use them to guide the conversation.

“Give some careful thought about where you want to go in your career, and ask your manager for feedback on how to best get there,” says Arshavsky. “Focus on which of your skills you should work on improving, which of your projects you should focus on most, or whom you should be networking within the company.”

4. Follow through

Simply asking for feedback may communicate to your boss that you’re interested in improving your performance, but to make a real impression, you have to take action.

“The best way to get more feedback is to act on the feedback you’re getting. After your boss shares his feedback, experiment with new behaviours until you find something that works,” says Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO of uniquelyHR. “When you do, be sure to let him know the results.”

Not acting on feedback can actually have adverse effects – particularly if you’re given the same advice repeatedly. If you’re having trouble putting some employer feedback into practise, bring it up again. By initiating the conversation, you demonstrate your genuine desire to improve, and your boss may be able to clarify his or her advice or offer new suggestions.

Asking for feedback can be daunting, but by approaching the situation with a clear self-assessment and an open mind, and by following through on your boss’s feedback, it can yield great rewards.

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