Requesting and Accepting Feedback

Learning to accept constructive feedback in a professional manner is an important skill that can enhance your career. It provides you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and helps to assure others that you are open to understand the value of feedback and continued growth.

Whether you agree in whole or part with the feedback, it can always be useful. You may learn about habits or traits that need to change, unintended impressions you are leaving with others or work priorities that you hadn’t been aware of. Or at the very least, you can better understand the other person's viewpoint. The most effective employees invite constructive feedback, and foster work relationships in which their supervisor and peers feel safe providing feedback.

How do I start the conversation with my supervisor?

  1. Ask for feedback directly. Schedule a meeting with your boss to invite feedback. Before the meeting let your supervisor know what you would like to discuss so he/she can prepare. You might say, “I really value feedback about my work and what I could do better, and I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on ways I could be more effective.” If in the meeting the response is vague (e.g. “Everything’s fine.”) then try to ask the question differently, such as, “What are two things that I could focus on doing better?”
  2. Debrief on specific projects. Ask for feedback connected to specific work by having “mini-debriefs” after a project or meeting is completed. For instance, you could say:
    “I felt like I had some trouble convincing people of ___ in that meeting. Do you have advice on how I could have approached it differently?”
    ”Do you have thoughts on what we could have done differently on this project to have gotten better results?”
  3. Talk about your goals. Talk to your manager about your career goals and ask for advice on what you can do to make yourself best suited to the roles you’d like to take on.
  4. When you do get constructive feedback, take it well. Managers are often just as reluctant to give feedback as others. If you get defensive or upset when you are given constructive feedback, you’ll make it harder for your manager to give you feedback in the future.

How to respond to feedback

You get to choose how you respond to feedback and whether you take actions based on it. The following tips will help you assure a professional reaction in the moment you receive feedback and after the conversation has ended.

  • Appreciate the compliments. Most people will include some positive feedback along with their suggestions. Take time to feel good about your strengths.
  • Don't explain away negative feedback. If you minimize constructive criticism, you will never learn from it and you will send the message that you don’t respect the process or the person giving you the feedback.
  • Don't overreact. Don’t let yourself be overcome with the need to explain away your behavior. Be careful to control your emotions, which may be more sensitive in that moment but will subside after you give yourself time to reflect on the feedback you’ve received.
  • Make your own decision about validity. People's opinions are only their perceptions. You have to decide whether or not they have a valid point. This is where it is important to consider whether you have received the same message from other sources during your career. If you have, it may lend greater credibility to the feedback you’ve received.
  • Set specific improvement goals. Identify specific and appropriate goals to help address the issues which have been shared with you. Make sure goals are S.M.A.R.T.
  • Follow up to assess progress. To find out if your efforts are succeeding, have follow-up discussions to find out what improvements you’ve made and how others view your efforts.