Solicit Negative Feedback When Your Manager Doesn’t Give It

By Harvard Business Review
May 28, 2018

If employees don’t receive constructive criticism, they can’t grow. So what does one do if the worker craves it and the boss isn’t talking? Here are a few suggestions.

When it comes to soliciting negative feedback, workers often find that their managers would rather dismiss, deny or delay it rather than speak. Nevertheless, when people don’t receive Constructive criticism, they can’t improve in their jobs, grow their careers, and achieve better business results.

So what do you do if you know that negative feedback is what you need to succeed — and nobody’s talking?

Try one of these creative approaches:

Give yourself negative feedback first: When people shy away from giving feedback, it’s often because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings. If they hear you talk about what you did wrong, their fear will go away.

Make self-improvement a personal commitment: if directly soliciting negative feedback isn’t working, tell your manager that you’ve made a commitment to yourself to improve in three areas, and that you’d like her feedback. That way, he or she can view her contribution as more about helping you make good on a promise.

Reframe negative feedback as a learning opportunity: If your manager is reticent to offer negative feedback directly, ask, “What is something you think I could learn from you?” It gives the other person a chance to reflect on his or her own talents, and share that thinking in a nonthreatening context.

Preemptively minimize the impact Of the negative feedback: Minimize the impact of the feedback you are soliciting by asking, “If I could change just one small habit, what should it be?” That signals to the other person that he or she doesn’t have to minimize or put negative feedback in context to make it palatable for you — you’ve done it already.

Managers should be able to give negative feedback, but even if they don’t, you need to learn how to solicit it so that you get the information you need to grow in your job and career.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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