How to Ask for Feedback (And Actually Get It)

Feedback is essential for the growth and development of any individual. Sourcing thoughts from employees allows managers to identify their strengths and areas for growth. While many organizations utilize formal or structured feedback processes like 360-degree feedback, managers should also constantly listen to employees and seek personal improvement by asking for feedback.

But getting meaningful, honest feedback isn’t always easy. Employees may feel uncomfortable revealing their true thoughts. They may not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or face future repercussions for harsh critiques. These fears cause them to submit fluffy feedback or avoid the request completely.

Use these tips to help employees feel comfortable and increase the likelihood that they respond with helpful, actionable feedback.

Be intentional with your phrasing.

Broad, overarching questions typically don’t draw great responses. Move your questions...

...from Broad to Specific

The more targeted your questions, the more direct answers you’ll receive.

✔  Ask this: “How can I improve our team’s goal-setting process?”

🗶   Not that: “How am I doing?

...from Traits to Behaviors

It’s very difficult for you to change who you are as a person. But behaviors are easier to adjust, and employees are more likely to give constructive criticism if they don’t feel they’re attacking someone’s character.

✔  Ask this: “What can I change about how I recognize your accomplishments?” 

🗶   Not that: “Why do team members say I’m not good at recognizing them?” 

...from Past to Future

The past can’t be changed, so it doesn’t help to dwell on it. Instead, ask what can be adjusted in the future.

✔  Ask this: “How would you like me to share company announcements?”

🗶   Not that: “Have I been communicating effectively?”

Really show you want feedback.

Make it clear that employee feedback isn’t just a box you’re checking to satisfy HR. You truly want to understand employee opinions and what you can do to make their work experience better. 

Be sure to:

  • Listen. Don’t be defensive or immediately respond when employees speak. Take in what they have to say and carefully consider it.
  • Say thank you. If employees believe you actually appreciate the feedback and will use it moving forward, they’re more likely to be open and honest.
  • Ask for clarifying examples or information. Pinpoint specific instances so you can truly understand how to change.
  • Check in on progress. There’s nothing more engaging than feedback that falls on deaf ears. But when you make changes based off employee suggestions, they feel heard and are more likely to submit honest, constructive feedback moving forward.

Be patient and give it time.

While it’s tempting to want instant results, patience is key. You have to build trust over time and understand that good feedback requires time and thought – it doesn’t come instantly. Share some examples of good feedback you’ve received in the past and what made it useful. Ask continuously to make feedback a regular part of employees’ lives, and don’t put pressure on employees by putting them on the spot.