Career Advice

How to Ask for Feedback in The Workplace

Daniel Robertshaw
By: Daniel Robertshaw
Feb 15, 2021 • 6 min read

How to Ask for Feedback – A Guide For Professionals.  

Feedback is a meaningful way to learn and grow in your professional career. Learning how to ask for feedback can be an important ability to have in your arsenal of skills. Top-performing professionals are the best they can be because they constantly look for ways to improve. Becoming a top-performing professional means becoming good at accepting feedback and knowing how and when to ask for it.

Feedback can be either positive or negative, but it will always be a learning experience. It may be daunting at first to ask for feedback. Maybe you feel anxious about having to ask for someone’s advice, or worried about how to apply critiques! Remember, you can’t expect yourself to be good at everything – everybody has room for growth some way or another. It’s completely normal and encouraged to ask others for their feedback. Feedback lets you know of your strengths and weaknesses and the necessary steps to take advantage of those strengths and fix those weaknesses.

Learning how to ask for feedback can be the difference between being a good employee or a great employee. If you are ready to improve yourself as a professional by seeking feedback from your colleagues, keep reading!

man using MacBook

Choose The Right Person

The first step of asking for feedback is determining who you will be seeking critiques from. Not everyone can, or will, give you helpful feedback about everything. Choose wisely when deciding who you will go to for advice on your workplace performance.

If you want feedback on a work-related item, it’s best to start with your close circle. Co-workers or any collaborators that you spend most of your time with will know you the best. These people should be able to point out your strengths and weaknesses after spending time working with you. Try to seek colleagues who are in your field of expertise. This should be a person you trust and know will be honest with you.

If you need feedback for something bigger, consider going to someone with more authority, maybe a boss or manager. However, before asking, be sure that what you’re asking for feedback on is appropriate for someone with their authority. Ask yourself, is it important enough for their time? Is this relatable enough for them? Would they be knowledgeable on this subject? Bosses or managers can be significant assets to use when asking for feedback. People that are in high positions usually have gotten there because of their leadership skills. One of the most important skills a leader can have is to give good feedback, so use your manager as an asset. Asking a manager for feedback shows that you want to grow and improve. Managers will see you more than a person going through the motions of every-day work.

Approach at The Right Time

Now that you’ve determined who you’re going to ask for feedback, it’s time to decide when a good time is to pose your question. When trying to decide on a good time to ask for feedback, look to your basic social awareness skills. You don’t want to approach someone when they’re swamped with work or talking with somebody else.

The best time to ask for feedback is to schedule it beforehand. If you’re going to ask your boss or manager for feedback, email them and set up a time where you can talk.

Sample email:

“Hi Michelle, I’ve been working on an article on the Stock Market for our finance section. I’d appreciate having someone of your expertise look over it and give me some feedback on my writing. Would you be available Wednesday to chat? Let me know what works best for you!”

In this email, you have given Michelle what you want feedback on and a suggested time. Instead of just showing up unannounced and asking for help, you have a scheduled time to chat! By doing this, you are being respectful of their time and ensuring a productive feedback session. 

When asking co-workers, you can be a little less formal. Simply go up to them when it seems appropriate and ask if they have any free time to give you feedback on a project. Obviously, it’s still important to be respectful of their time, but your relationship with co-workers tend to be more informal than with your boss. Make sure they know how much of a time commitment it will be. If you just want a few minutes versus an in-depth session, you should let them know what they are getting into.

how to ask for feedback

Ask for Honesty

It can be tough to get the honest truth out of someone when asking for their feedback. When asking friendly co-workers, it may be hard to get their truthful opinions. People don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. It’s human nature! But at the end of the day, false but kind feedback is not helpful. You want your co-workers to be honest with you, even if it could potentially hurt your feelings. So, when asking for feedback, be sure to communicate that you want their truthful opinion, no matter how tough it may be. This is the only way to grow as a professional!

For example, say, “Hey Mark, could you let me know what you think about this logo design for this new software. I want you to be honest with me, don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. Being helpful is more important.” In this phase, you let Mark know that you want his honest opinion on the logo you have created. By specifically stating, to be honest, you’re eliminating any possible awkward feelings Mark may have in giving honest feedback.

If you’re asking someone for their brutally honest feedback, keep in mind not getting emotional about what they say. You are the one that has asked for the truth, so don’t get upset by what you hear. Most of the time, feedback is given with good intentions, so take out any emotion from what you hear and use it to better yourself instead.

Be Specific

When you ask for feedback, be specific on what exactly you want feedback on. If you are vague in asking for what you want feedback on, you might receive insufficient feedback that won’t help you. Point out specific things that you are struggling with. It’s hard to know what exactly to give feedback on if you aren’t told.

Let’s say that I feel like my design work isn’t the best it can be. Looking over my recent projects, I notice that I’m particularly struggling with getting the right typography for the right situations. To better myself, I decide to ask to Design Lead for feedback on my recent projects. Since I’ve been struggling with typography, when asking for their feedback, I would be specific in saying, “Could you specifically focus on my typography and how I can improve in that area?”. Instead of giving you feedback on details you’re not concerned about, the Design Lead will focus on the area you are specifically struggling with. Asking for what you need helps save both you and the Design Lead a lot of time and effort. The Design Lead doesn’t waste their time giving you feedback on something irrelevant, and you get what you need quickly.

how to ask for feedback

Ask for Clarity when Needed

Applying the feedback you receive is almost as important as getting the critiques themselves. Be sure to ask your boss/coworker for clarity when needed. If you’ve gone through the trouble of asking for feedback, you’ll want to at least understand the advice you’re getting. When getting feedback, it’s best to use active listening. Active listening will keep you engaged with the person giving you feedback and help you better analyze what they are saying!

For example, let’s say you are getting feedback on your yearly performance. Typically, there will be expectations for specific categories for a yearly account, and then you will get feedback on each of these. Your boss tells you that she’d like to see you grow more into a leadership role in the leadership section. That seems pretty vague. Instead of accepting it for what it is, ask for clarification. What can I do to develop my leadership skills? Are there any opportunities I can take to help with this? Asking these questions will help make the advice you receive more benefits. 

Follow Up

After receiving your feedback and implementing what you get, take note to remember to follow up. Whether it be to thank them for their time or show the progress you’ve made, it’s always a good idea to have a follow up from your initial request. This is a way to thank them for their time and show you appreciated what they did for you. Showing gratitude or showing the improvements you made also encourages future feedback to be given.

Let’s go back to the Design Lead that you asked for feedback on your typography. You asked them to look at the typography from your past few projects and give feedback on how it can be improved. After receiving the feedback, you go and make the changes given and improve your typography skills. After making improvements, go back to the Design Lead and show that you listened to their feedback and made the commitment to improve. Management will appreciate you taking the time to improve yourself through their feedback and showing that you’re willing to listen and take action.

how to ask for feedback

Overview

Though it may seem daunting at first, asking for feedback doesn’t have to be complicated. The more you do it, the easier it gets! As you continue to get feedback and implement what you’ve been told, you’ll see that your work and workplace relationships improve. Management is keen to notice employees who actively seek ways to better themselves, so don’t be afraid to go to higher-level management for feedback. You never know what you might learn!

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