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Getting feedback at work

Does the thought of getting a talking-to from your boss send a cold shiver down your spine? Many of us are terrified of criticism, but feedback can make or break our ability to grow as students and professionals. 

Why do employers give feedback? Ideally, they do it to ensure that you know what’s expected of you and to show that they care about your work and want to help you be successful in your position.

Here are some things you can do to make the process of getting feedback helpful for you and your career. 


Ask for feedback

Taking initiative and asking for feedback is a great way to show your employer that you’re committed to doing a good job and passionate about finding ways to improve. The best way to do this is to set up a one-on-one meeting with your manager and ask them for feedback on specific things you’re working on. For example, if you’re in charge of creating a presentation deck for a certain project, you can walk them through the presentation and get their advice on what you can do to make the presentation as effective as possible.

Pro Tip: Asking for concrete feedback on specific things is a great way to maximize the advice you’re receiving. Don’t just say, “Is there anything I could be doing better?” Instead, focus on a task you’re working on and ask a direct question such as, “Am I taking the right approach here?” This will give your manager a chance to provide detailed feedback while also setting the tone for them to provide more general feedback when needed.

Take time to process the feedback you receive

For most of us, the prospect of receiving feedback makes us feel somewhat defensive and our initial impulse might be a “fight or flight” response to being criticized. However, by retraining our brain to think of feedback as helpful, we can overcome this impulse and find productive ways of incorporating it into our work. The best way to do this is by taking some time to process the feedback before responding to it. Instead of addressing it immediately, thank the person and take some time to think about what they’ve said. Once you’ve done that, you can respond and address specific points that you’d like to clarify or expand on.

Pro Tip: The key to keeping an open mind in this situation is to realize that the person giving you feedback has only one goal: to help you improve. By making this your focus, you can ensure that you’re receptive to their advice and that you act on the information you receive.

Agree on action items

Since feedback is designed to help you improve, having a concrete way to implement it is really important. In order to do this, make sure to walk away from the meeting with a concrete list of next steps. For example, going back to the presentation example, if your manager has asked that you add additional slides or metrics to the deck, be sure to outline what those slides or metrics will look like and come up with a timeline for when you will implement the changes.

Try it out

Once you’ve outlined your next steps, it’s time to apply the feedback. The key to doing this successfully is to focus on each step carefully and to take into account both the overarching and detailed points of the feedback you received. However, it’s also okay to push back on elements that don’t feel right to you. For example, if you implement a change to the presentation deck and you feel like it doesn’t add any real value, it’s okay to say so and to brainstorm other things you can do instead.

When handled in an open-minded and receptive way, constructive feedback can be a powerful tool that will help you succeed in your role and develop new skills along the way.

Adapted from wayup.com