How to Get Honest Feedback at Work

Getting better at your job means knowing about areas in which you need to improve.

However, that doesn’t mean your coworkers or bosses are providing you with that information, or that you get it in a timely fashion.

If you receive information months after a project has finished or weeks after a meeting with clients that didn’t go very well, it might not give you the ability to improve. If you only receive a performance review once a year, you aren’t getting enough actionable information.

Looking to change that and get the insight you need? Here are a few ways you can elicit and give feedback to your colleagues.

1. Ask How You Can Improve

You have the most control when it comes to your job performance and where you want to take your career, and if you’re doing something well or have areas you need to improve, you’re the only one who can make the choice to improve those areas. However, if you don’t know about them, you can’t improve them.

Take an active role in your job and in getting feedback from others. A few questions you can ask include:

  • Was there a better way I could have handled that task?
  • Are you satisfied with the outcome of this situation? Why or why not?
  • I could have taken several approaches to this task. How do you think I handled it?

Be aware that your colleagues might not open up immediately with responses to your questions. They may feel like they are going to upset you or hurt your feelings — and most people don’t want to intentionally hurt others. Be patient and don’t be afraid to ask again on the next project.

2. Be Willing to Give Feedback Yourself

One of the ways to help solve the feedback issue with your colleagues is to start giving feedback when appropriate. You can start by pointing out your coworkers’ strengths and letting them know what they did well on a certain project. As time goes on, you may mix in constructive criticism to help them improve.

If you do this often and well, your colleagues may start to return the favor, giving you invaluable information to improve your work performance. Getting your coworkers to like and trust you is a first step in getting them to give and receive valuable feedback.

3. Know Giving and Receiving Feedback Can Be Difficult

Even if you’ve solicited feedback from your boss or coworkers, you might react negatively to what they have to say. According to psychological studies, criticism is viewed by our brain as a threat to our survival, so our brain tries to protect us. After all, we are being told how to improve, and it could be hard for us to hear that we’re not as good as we think we are.

However, if feedback is given in the proper way, it could help you and your colleagues get better at your jobs. Keep in mind:

  • Constructive feedback has to come from a credible source, and you have to trust the person who is giving you the feedback
  • It has to be given at an appropriate time and be conveyed with good intentions
  • The message has to be clear
  • The manner in which feedback is given has to be interactive.

Following these guidelines could potentially help you and your coworkers communicate feedback with one another in an effective and efficient manner that will benefit everyone on the team.

4. Turn Negative Feedback Into a Positive

If you truly want to improve your work performance, you need to realize not everything you do is going to be perfect. Receiving and giving feedback means focusing on the positive aspects of your work and those areas that need improvement. While your brain will try to protect you from the negative comments and perhaps make you angry or defensive, realize this is happening and attempt to push the feelings aside.

Listen to what your colleagues tell you, then store that information to mull over later. They may or may not give you advice that is helpful, but it’s important to listen to what they have to say and consider it. From there, you can turn the interaction into a learning experience and find ways to improve your performance.

Getting feedback is an invaluable tool to improve your performance at work. Not everyone will give it freely, and when they do give it, it might not always be applicable or helpful. However, take the time to listen to what they have to say and consider whether you can incorporate their words to improve how you work. Feedback may just be exactly what you need to further your career.

Do you have any other advice on how to give and receive feedback? Share it in the comments below and subscribe to the newsletter for more information on ways to advance your career.


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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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