How to get feedback at work (even remotely)
May 19, 2020
Feedback is an extremely valuable development tool that serves to guide you through your professional career. It gives you the opportunity to acknowledge shortcomings and work to strengthen these areas. Asking for feedback can be difficult under normal circumstances, but it’s even harder if you have to go through the process remotely. Here we explain why communicating with your manager and receiving constructive criticism is necessary, especially when working from home, and how to put any feedback into practice.
Feedback sessions are vital for your professional future: they help you to grow in your career and to develop soft skills. If you know how to ask for feedback, you’re already halfway there. This might sound simple, but the reality is that most of us find it challenging to start a difficult conversation. What’s more, a virtual workplace does not lend itself to this type of meeting, which can further complicate matters.
However, if you can find the right moment to request feedback when you are working remotely it will benefit your career, both in the long term and on a day-to-day basis. There are several reasons for this. Feedback helps you to become more efficient and you will be able to implement changes in your work routine in a gradual and orderly manner. Most importantly, feedback gives you constructive criticism of your work, which is necessary when you work alone from home.
What, then, is key to successfully asking your boss for feedback? It’s all down to these 5 steps of practice and preparation:
1. Suggest a meeting or a video call
Let’s be clear, asking your manager for a meeting is complicated. Often feeling shy makes you reticent—you don’t want to be a nuisance or waste their time—or there might be a fear of getting negative feedback. However, the time has come to take responsibility, show initiative and find the right moment to have that conversation.
A face-to-face meeting is preferable, but if the ideal scenario doesn’t present itself, ask to schedule a video call. Body language, tone of voice, and eye contact—all the elements of non-verbal communication—are much more persuasive than the message itself. So stay away from phone calls and instant messaging, too.
If you are working remotely, the most convenient way to ask for a meeting is in an email that outlines its purpose and objectives. It’s worth clarifying that it will not be a long or formal meeting, but a simple chat to help you assess your performance and look to improve your work moving forward.
2. Explain where you need feedback
In your email, indicate what areas you need feedback on. This makes it easier for your manager to adjust to your needs and prepare the meeting efficiently. Include a short list of what you would like to discuss during the video call. Keep to the point and don’t go off on a tangent.
If you have regular feedback sessions, it’s a good idea to have a notebook in which you write down updates and the topics you want to address in future meetings. You can even keep a work diary if it helps you to stay organized and remember all those issues that you don’t want to be overlooked.
In general, feedback can be divided into three main categories:
- Working relationship: how has your communication been with your manager?
- Product or service: has the quality of work delivered been satisfactory?
- Objectives: Have you met expectations regarding your performance?
3. Prepare questions regarding any doubts you might have
When planning the meeting, write a list of questions or concerns that you want to ask your manager. It will help you feel mentally prepared.
- Have a list of questions with you that can serve as a starting point. In general, they will be answered as the meeting progresses, but if you have them written out it will help you redirect the conversation if it isn’t going the way you had expected.
- Use positive language and avoid phrases with a vague, abstract, or ambiguous meaning. It’s better to ask specific questions. For example, “How do you rate the overall result of this project and my role in it? How do you think it could have gone better? What areas do you think I could improve on?”
- Don’t focus on the negatives—ask for the positives. Feedback sessions are not simply about correcting errors and problems, but recognizing any areas of your work that could improve the overall experience of the team, and being able to enhance or refine them.
4. Steel yourself for criticism
If you ask for feedback, you must be prepared for the possibility of receiving criticism. You may have to listen to negative comments about some aspects of your work, but remember this is all part of the process. Analyse negative feedback from a pragmatic point of view, not an emotional one. This will stop you developing impostor syndrome and help you maintain a realistic attitude.
For a positive exchange with your manager, it is essential to create an environment of cooperation that fosters efficient, constructive communication. To do this, put some of the key components of the Nonviolent Communication (NVS) into practice:
- Don’t judge your interlocutor. If you start passing judgment, you will create an uncomfortable climate that will work against you. Remember that this is a conversation, not a confrontation.
- Identify and express your feelings. Help resolve conflict or communication breakdowns by expressing your vulnerability. Don’t try to be perfect; if you don’t understand something, it’s always best to ask.
- Don’t take criticism personally. If at any point during the meeting, you feel belittled or humiliated, give yourself a moment to distance yourself and take charge of your emotions. Your manager is judging your work, not you as a person.
5. What to do with the feedback received
During the meeting, write down thoughts and observations that arise so you can reflect on them afterward. Don’t be afraid to write down how you felt during the meeting; it will help your growth process. At the end of the meeting, the aim is to have received answers to your list of questions and doubts, and an idea of how to improve your work.
- Review everything you have discussed and highlight what changes you can implement immediately.
- Think about any changes that will require more time and devise a strategy to put them into action.
- Suggest another video call or meeting in the coming weeks or months to assess how you have been applying those changes to your work.
- If you are working remotely, request a follow-up chat with your manager where you can discuss small goals or achievements that help you know you are on the right track until the next video call.
It’s essential to maintain fluid, constructive communication with your manager for career progression, so don’t be afraid to request regular feedback, even if you’re working from home. A wide variety of platforms can help you keep in touch virtually, so don’t put it off any longer: start writing down all those questions that you would like to discuss with your manager.
Translated by Sunita Maharaj-Landaeta
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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