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How to Get Constructive Feedback From Your Manager

Communication is the ultimate key to improve


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Houssem Sadki

3 years ago | 5 min read

Photo by Jo Hilton on Unsplash

Feedback is a very useful development tool for progressing in your professional life: it allows you to see where you are wrong and to improve. If under normal circumstances, asking for feedback is already complicated, the pressure increases when the economic situation requires you to request it remotely … We explain to you why communicating with your manager and receiving constructive criticism is necessary, including when working from home, and how to profit from it.

1. Focus on people, offer a meeting or a video call

Let’s be clear, asking your manager for a meeting is not easy. Very often, reluctance arises from shyness (a denial to annoy or abuse the time of others) or the fear of receiving negative feedback. But now is the time to take charge and have this famous conversation, right?

Your manager will surely appreciate that you dare to take the lead. But what form should this exchange take to be constructive?

Whatever the urgency of the subjects discussed and the availability of each one, it is preferable that the meeting take place face-to-face. But if the conditions are not met to end up in an office, the video call is essential. No more discussions by interposed e-mails or instant messaging, where misunderstandings are legion.

For good reason, a virtual meeting would be 34 times more effective than a simple e-mail. And if, for example, you have to justify yourself on your work and convince of your goodwill, know that your gestures, the tone of your voice, your gaze … and all your non-verbal communication, will help you persuade the other person much more than the finest speech.

If you are telecommuting, your best bet is still to send your manager an e-mail in which you clearly state the purpose of the meeting and your intentions.

The ideal is to make it clear that this is not a long formal meeting, but a free and relaxed discussion from which you will emerge boosted and more likely to improve yourself.

2. Specify in advance on what points you need feedback

Specifying the topics requiring feedback will help your manager to adapt to your needs and to prepare the meeting optimally. Include in your message a shortlist of things you would like to cover during the meeting or video call.

Try to be concrete but not to scatter yourself. If this becomes a routine between you, remember to keep a notebook where you will write down the themes that you would like to discuss during the next meetings.

You could even keep a diary if that helps you stay organized and remember any questions you don’t want to slip away.

In general, the points on which you will need feedback to fall into three categories:

  • Relationships: how were the interactions with your manager but also with your colleagues and the various teams of the company.
  • The quality of the product or service: the degree of satisfaction with the work provided.
  • The objectives: if you have satisfied the expectations, previously formulated, for your position.

3. Prepare your questions and doubts

When planning the meeting, write a list of questions or doubts that you would like to share with your manager. It will help you feel ready.

Have a list of questions that can serve as a starting point. Usually, you will get your answers as the meeting progresses, but having questions aside will help redirect the discussion if it does not move in the direction you expect.

In addition to using positive language, it is better to avoid sentences that are too vague, abstract, or ambiguous, and favor concrete formulations.

For example: what do you think of the results obtained in this project and the role that I played in it? How could we have improved the whole process? What are the points on which I need to improve?

Don’t be confined to the negatives! Include the positive aspects of your questions. It’s not just about talking about issues or correcting mistakes, but taking the pulse of the group’s experience so that you can get the best out of it or refine certain aspects of it, both collectively and individually.

4. Prepare yourself psychologically to receive criticism

If you are asking for feedback, you must be prepared to receive it. You might have to hear reviews about some aspect of your job, but remember they aren’t free. Analyze them from a pragmatic, not an emotional point of view.

Thus, you will avoid devaluing yourself, until you lose confidence in yourself and fall into the path of impostor syndrome and this will help you maintain a positive but realistic attitude.

To make this exchange with your manager as profitable as possible, create an atmosphere of cooperation conducive to efficient and constructive communication. And for that, it will be very useful for you to put into practice some of the keys of nonviolent communication, such as:

  • Do not judge your interlocutor. If you start to make value judgments, you will create an uncomfortable climate where you will come out the loser. Remember this is not a confrontation.
  • Identify and express your feelings. Expressing your own vulnerability can help resolve conflict and difficult communication situations. Don’t try to be perfect. If something escapes you, your best bet is to say it humbly.
  • Take a step back from the criticisms. If at any point during the meeting you feel belittled or humiliated, give yourself a minute to distance yourself and face your emotions. Consider that it is your work over a period of time that is judged, not who you are

5. Take advantage of the feedback received (even remotely!)

During the meeting, write down any thoughts and observations that come to you for further reflection. Don’t be afraid to take note of how you felt during the meeting: it will invite you to introspect and help you move forward, both personally and professionally. Once the meeting is over, the idea is to take advantage of the exchange.

  • Review all of what was said and underline what can be done right away.
  • Think about the changes that will take longer, and plan a strategy to implement them.
  • Offer another video call or meeting, to assess how you have applied, or not, these changes to your daily work.
  • If you are teleworking, ask for a follow-up by chat or e-mail where you can exchange, as you go, with your manager on your goals and accomplishments. What helps you know if you are on the right track until the next meeting.

Maintaining fluid and constructive contact with your manager is fundamental to continuing to advance in your career. So, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback regularly, even if you work from home.

A plethora of platforms will help you keep in touch virtually. All you have to do is formulate, without censoring yourself, all the questions you want to discuss with your manager!

First published here.

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Houssem Sadki

Navy Hydrographic Engineer and GIS Specialist and looking to become adata scientist


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