getting feedback – part 2: ASK

June 1, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 2 Comments

As we talked about earlier, there are many reasons why getting feedback is difficult. So what can you do to ensure you’re getting the feedback you need? There are several things, so let’s take them one at a time.

Ask. Simple as it may sound, this is the first step. But don’t just say, “I was hoping I could get some feedback from you.” Instead, ask in a way that is suited to the style and comfort zone of your boss. My former boss just wasn’t going to ever sit down and write up a formal review. So with him, I just scheduled conversations, or a lunch or dinner, and talked openly. Others may be far more comfortable writing something into a formal doc. Whatever the case, make it easy on them to be honest. Remember, you’re not trying to get HR documentation here. You’re trying to really improve yourself and that means getting *real* feedback.

What if they say “No?” Chances are, you won’t get someone to come out and say “No” that directly, but you will find that despite repeated attempts to talk to them within their own comfort zone, the feedback still doesn’t come. In short, this is a real problem. I think there are a few choices in this situation.

First, you can try to go around them to a better leader. Often there will be another person parallel to your boss who knows quite a bit about you. Try to arrange a meeting with that person to obtain feedback. You would be surprised how often this works. And sometimes, it even works better because there is less awkwardness.

Second, you really should consider moving on if career growth is important to you. If you can’t find honest feedback as to how you are doing, then it’s going to be a complete guessing game where you stand. You may think that raises and bonuses will tell you how you are doing in the absence of other feedback, but that can be deceiving. Suppose you are in a situation where your boss believes you are not performing well. Moreover, she is the type who will not give you any feedback. What can happen in that situation, believe it or not, is that she may find it easier on her to simply give you decent merit increases and bonuses, than to deal with the problem. And in the ultimate irony, sometimes they even PROMOTE those whom they think are doing poorly, just to push the problem to someone else.

Right now you may be thinking, “Sounds like a good gig to me! My boss doesn’t think I’m performing well, but I’m getting good raises and bonuses, and maybe even promoted!” Only trouble with that is, when cuts are to be made, you may find yourself unsuspectingly at the top of the list, and that’s never a good place to be. But more on that later…

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