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Learn How to Ask Your Boss for Feedback

To do your job well, you need to know what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Unfortunately, many companies don’t automatically provide feedback to their employees. You may need to ask.

Here are five tips for approaching the subject with your boss.

Schedule a Meeting

Feedback should be part of a thought-provoking, serious and private discussion. So, don’t ask your boss, “How am I doing?” at lunch, in the breakroom or at the end of a hectic day. Instead, send an email to set up a designated meeting time and place. In your note, tell your boss you are reflecting on your workplace performance and you believe you could benefit from their advice. Offer several options so they can pick a date that works best for them. Remember, supervisors usually face full inboxes. If you don’t receive a response within a few days, simply follow up in person.

Set an Agenda

Many managers don’t receive specific training in how to give effective feedback. Therefore, you may have to guide the conversation. Before the meeting, identify three or four specific areas of interest. These may be core competencies, recent projects or career goals. Then, send this outline to your boss along with a start and end time. Don’t let the meeting go longer than 15 to 30 minutes. Bosses are busy people. Show them you appreciate their time.

Ask for and Accept Criticism

You may find yourself in a situation where your boss says, “I love everything you are doing. Keep it up!” Although these comments will make you feel great about yourself, they don’t teach you anything. You may need to push for negative feedback with questions such as, “What is one thing I could be doing better?” And remember, criticism can be hard to take. Be prepared to keep an open mind.

Create an Action Plan

After the meeting, document three or four items you intend to work on, the desired outcomes and a timeframe. Make sure your objectives are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) to increase your chances of success. Send a copy of this to your boss. If they know your plan, they will be better able to provide support and guidance along the way.

Make This an Ongoing Process

Finally, both you and your boss will feel frustrated if your insightful discussion fails to produce any results. After a month or two, start the process over again. In your follow-up meeting, begin by reviewing your action plan. What have you accomplished? Where did you fall short? And, then talk about new goals. By communicating regularly with your supervisor, you can make steady and fluid progress instead of waiting around for your annual performance review.

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