Asking for feedback (and using it!)

June 27, 2022

Feedback can be critical to a manager or company's success. And while it can be difficult to receive, particularly if it's negative, there are certain things we need outside perspectives on, particularly when it comes to work. In fact, a study by Gallup shows that managers who offer frequent and continuous feedback influence their employees to be 3.2 times more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work, and 2.7 times more likely to be engaged at work.

At its best, feedback is meant to motivate, empower, and put one in the best position for success. However, sometimes it can really sting. What it comes down to, is perspective.
Two people might receive the same exact feedback, but it will land differently, according to studies shared by Forbes.

To help, there are a few things you can do.

  • If you're a sensitive person, you might have someone put together the feedback into a report to go over highlights and what different employees agree upon. This way, you can get the truth, but through an honest filter. So you might miss messages that are mean or unproductive, but still receive what you need to know. For example, if multiple employees are asking for shorter meetings so they can get back to work, that would be valuable information. What's not valuable (and might end up sticking more than the rest) are notes about the manager's boring meetings that drag on. Having a trusted employee, like someone in human resources, decipher the feedback from everyone will also keep it anonymous. Which brings us to the next point.
  • Anonymity is important so you don't end up with bias afterward toward someone who may have had negative feedback. As professional as you might be, it's difficult to look at someone the same if they have said something inappropriate or cruel about you. Not to mention, employees will be more honest if they know they can speak freely.
  • When asking for feedback, provide employees with very specific instructions. Ask for their thoughts on certain behaviors or situations, and not about personality. An easy way to structure this is to avoid using "you" phrases. This will result in phrases like "I feel like I am being given more tasks than I can handle given my current schedule," versus "You never know when to stop asking me for more!" Both have the same meaning, but one is far more constructive than the other.
  • You'll also want to ask them to be specific and provide an instance or scenario that can help paint a picture of the problem. So, for example, this will look like "I felt taken advantage of when I was asked to work on the weekend, outside my normal schedule," rather than "I felt taken advantage of."

Only you know yourself and how you'll handle feedback from your employees. Done correctly and in a safe environment, it can be vital to moving forward and understanding both your strengths and weaknesses. And the best way to show employees that they're being heard, is putting that feedback into actionable changes.