5 Tips for Asking Your Boss for Feedback

July 7, 2016

It takes courage to ask your boss for feedback. It also takes courage for your boss to give you honest feedback. Which is one of the things you need to keep in mind when going to your manager to find out how you're really doing on the job. To that end, thanks to a helpful Wall Street Journal article, you'll find several tips below on how best to navigate the often awkward and difficult situation of asking your boss for feedback, along with a video interview with the WSJ's Sue Shellanberger, who spoke to several experts on the subject.

1. Acknowledge that your work isn't perfect.
When you go to your boss to ask for feedback on how you're doing, ask what you could be doing differently or how you could be performing better. This can open up the conversation and allow your boss to be more frank with you. And if you ask about what you could be doing that your manager could "get excited about," it shows that you have a "genuine interest in the boss's viewpoint."

2. Connect your performance to your manager's.
Making your request more about a team effort than about you is a good idea. If you can "tie your request to the boss's objectives or the company's mission," you'll likely find that your boss will be more apt to help you out. There's a good chance that your manager wants you to be the best employee you can, though not necessarily for your own good but for the good of the company.

3. Don't be defensive.
Don't react to what you're hearing if you think it's wrong. Instead, listen. Remember, you asked for the feedback, and sometimes critiques, while painful at first, will help you in the long run: you'll be able to see something you've been doing that isn't quite your best, and you'll be given the opportunity to change it. That's a blessing.

4. Be thankful for the feedback.
No matter what feedback you receive (helpful, unhelpful, good, not so good), make sure to thank your manager for his or her time and feedback. As mentioned, it takes courage to ask for and give honest feedback. Your manager will appreciate that you understand this.

5. Ask your boss what others think of your work.
This is a work around if you're not getting what you want. So, say your boss tells you something like, "You're doing fine." And nothing more. This isn't so helpful. Maybe your boss doesn't feel comfortable saying too much. In that case, ask your boss what other managers and coworkers think about your work. Ask, "How am I seen around here?" Or: "Who else is doing a good job and seen as a great employee here?" That latter question could at least give you someone to emulate if you're unable to determine how your boss or others see you.

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