Identifying growth opportunities and asking for feedback in a workplace can be difficult. Your co-worker may not tell you what you want to hear, but hopefully, they will tell you what you need to hear.
Asking for feedback can be a very rewarding experience if you ask the right questions to the right person at the right time. And you should have a learning attitude to receive their feedback and suggestions.
How To Ask for Feedback
You may be wondering how to ask for feedback, especially if you have never asked a colleague or peer for their thoughts on your skills, performance, or perceived behavior. It takes a certain humility and vulnerability to reach out and ask for another person’s opinion about you, but it can be extremely rewarding.
Here are tips for asking your colleague for feedback and getting much-needed feedback for your professional development goals.
Find the Right Person To Give You Feedback
As you consider finding someone to ask for feedback, it’s best to identify the right person and give them plenty of notice. Stopping a random person in the hallway or breakroom is probably not the best method for what you need.
Here are some people who may be a good fit for providing professional feedback:
- Your direct report or manager
- Co-workers who regularly work on the same team
- Collaborators who you work with semi-regularly
You can either schedule a one-on-one meeting or ask them via email for critical feedback. You will want to make sure this person consistently sees you working so that they can see the changes as you make adjustments.
Find the Right Time To Ask for Feedback
Not only is asking the right person a vital step in the process but asking at the right time is equally important.
Don’t ask for feedback during the busy season or when things are slammed at work. Adding one more thing to your colleague’s full plate will not gain you any favors.
It’s best to ask your colleague for feedback when things are slower than usual, and they have availability to give your questions their full attention. You can also give them a head’s up before asking for feedback. Or send them an email with clear instructions on why you want to meet with them.
You will also want to send your questions beforehand to give your co-worker time to process and give you excellent feedback, rather than off-the-cuff “let me just say something because you’re here” answers.
Ask Good Questions for Feedback
Speaking of questions, having a list of good questions for your colleague to answer is the third equally essential factor to getting good feedback.
Your questions can be open-ended or have yes/no answers. If you ask a yes/no question, ask a follow-up question that allows for clarification or examples.
Here are some questions to consider asking your co-worker for feedback:
- What growth opportunities do you think I should focus on?
- How can I better manage my time?
- How are my interactions with the team?
- Which parts of my responsibilities are not getting enough attention?
- What can I do to help the company’s mission?
These are just a few examples. Consider asking a minimum of five questions, but no more than fifteen. You don’t want to overwhelm your co-worker (or yourself) with too many questions. The questions are there to help spark conversations and open the door to reveal areas for you to improve and grow.
Listening to Colleagues Feedback
Asking for feedback is only part of the process. Listening to your colleague’s answer is essential for you to assess and change, ultimately growing into the best co-worker and leader for your company.
When meeting one-on-one with your colleague, listen to their feedback, take notes, and ask follow-up questions. These are vital components when collecting feedback.
Active listening is a great skill to have and vital to receiving feedback.
Listening skills include making eye contact and having proper facial expressions and posture. Leaning back with your arms crossed and zoning out is a bad idea for a productive feedback experience. Even if your colleague tells you something you don’t necessarily want to hear, having good posture is important.
You also want to make sure that you truly listen to what they are saying. Don’t interrupt or try to defend yourself when they are giving examples of improvement areas. Just listen.
You’ll also want to take notes during your feedback meeting. Having your list of questions in front of you and taking notes on what your colleague says will help you refer back at a later date.
Just let your co-worker know that you’ll be taking notes so that it’s not a distraction and they know you are engaging in what they are saying. Especially if you are taking notes on a computer, communicating that you’re simply taking notes for reference shows your colleague that you respect their input.
Ask Follow-Up Questions
While you don’t want to interrupt your colleague, you do want to ask for clarification or examples when appropriate. These types of questions show your peer that you’re serious about the process and their feedback.
You can also ask to set a follow-up meeting at a later date, typically at three months, six months, or a year later. This second meeting is a great time to pull out your notes from the first meeting and ask follow-up questions to check for improvements.
Responding To Negative Feedback
It’s practically inevitable that you will hear negative feedback or something you don’t want to hear during your feedback meeting. Negative feedback is perfectly normal and, truthfully, more important than positive feedback.
Negative feedback shines a light on the areas that you need to improve. These types of comments are why you’re asking for feedback in the first place.
Don’t respond right away to negative feedback. Process their input and, if needed, get a second (or third) opinion on the topic. If you find yourself agreeing with their assessment, decide on action steps to change the behavior. If you disagree with what they said, consider approaching the topic at a later date to resolve the issue.
Follow-Up With Colleague’s Feedback
Asking for feedback is challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Afterward, make an action plan with clear steps on how you can improve in certain areas. Be sure to follow up with your colleague later to thank them for their input and ask if they see any changes.
The feedback you receive might not be what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear to improve as a colleague and grow your career.