Have you ever started a new job and received very little guidance or attention from your manager? How do you know the difference between the silence that means, “you’re doing a good job,” and the silence that means, “I don’t have time to think about what you’re doing”? The last thing you want is to find out several months or a year down the road that the latter is true. While it can feel daunting to solicit feedback from your manager, it is sometimes the only way to find out if your work is satisfactory.
Giving feedback is just as scary as getting it. Often managers do not offer constructive feedback because they are afraid of how it will be received. Your manager is taking a risk in order to offer you guidance about how your work is impacting them and the company. By asking “how am I doing” you are opening the door and showing your manager that you are willing to hear what they have to say. This will lessen the anxiety all around. Feedback is valuable information and it’s in your best interest to get as much of it as you can!
If you find that it is difficult to get information from your manager you may want to ask specific questions. For instance, rather than saying, “how did I do on that project” you might ask, “were you satisfied with the amount of time and resources spent on that project”?
Here are some tips to consider when opening the lines of communication:
- Listen carefully and resist the urge to interrupt with excuses. You may want to take notes on expectations moving forward and jot down any areas that you do not understand. It’s ok to ask for clarification and to review the situation to ensure you both understand everything involved. Your manager will appreciate that you are taking the feedback and conversation seriously, whether the comments are kudos or concerns.
- Focus on understanding the problem and creating a solution rather than excusing or justifying your behavior. Avoid the temptation to shift the blame or point your finger at others. Take the opportunity to learn what you can do differently.
- Participate in the conversation. Don’t ignore what you are being told even if you feel the information is inaccurate. Keep in mind that this is his or her perception of your performance. Don’t just agree to make him or her go away. Be open to making changes and ask for help. Part of their job is to help you be successful.
- If you are feeling hurt or offended by the feedback you may wish to take a break before responding or continuing the conversation.
You can use these conversations to learn more about how your manager works and what she or he values. Once you know what your manager values you will have an easier time pleasing her or him. If s/he values coming in ahead of deadline, you know that you want to be careful to give deadlines that you can always meet or beat. If your manager values precision, you want to promise just what you can deliver and come in on time and budget.
It is important to understand how we are perceived by others in the workplace and the only way to find out is to ask. Develop a habit of asking for feedback. You may be surprised at what you learn and at how easy it is to please your manager when you are better in tune with what they want and expect from you.
What is your experience with getting and giving feedback in the workplace? Please share your stories about how feedback (or lack of feedback) has affected your working relationships.