How to request feedback from coworkers: a 5-step guide

Requesting feedback can be daunting. To get you started here’s our quick guide, it takes you step-by-step through how to request feedback from coworkers.

The benefits of requesting feedback from coworkers

Here are some of the most important ways that you’ll benefit:

  1. Good feedback can provide you with fresh insights. These ‘ah ha’ moments can reveal performance improvement opportunities that you wouldn’t have realized through self-reflection.
  2. The simple act of asking for feedback from coworkers helps to build closer working relationships. Most of your coworkers will appreciate being asked for feedback and if you follow the guidance below they’ll feel positive about the experience of giving you feedback.
  3. The feedback can accelerate and focus your development. Feedback is a great self-development tool, it provides both quick fixes to improve your performance as well as more profound development opportunities that will take time to work on. Combined with your own career and development planning it will help accelerate your career.
  4. You’ll feel more satisfied with the work you are doing. Research shows that seeking feedback from coworkers also has an impact on how you feel about your work. It cultivates a sense of satisfaction because you have other people’s perspective on your work too.

As you can see there are many benefits of requesting feedback from coworkers, it’s a well documented and well researched topic.

Don’t wait for the ‘annual review’ to request feedback, get into a regular habit and you’ll find that the quality of feedback you receive starts to increase too.

What gets in the way of coworkers providing effective feedback

Before we look at how to request feedback from coworkers it’s worth looking at what gets in the way of coworkers providing feedback. Understanding these barriers will help you evaluate what will work best as you become more active in requesting feedback.

  • Lack of personal insight. Coworkers will feel most comfortable providing feedback based on their own observations (rather than what they’ve heard from other coworkers). It’s a simple starting point, but make sure your coworker has observed your behavior relevant to the feedback you’re seeking. For example, if you want feedback on your performance in meetings, make sure you ask a coworker who has observed you in plenty of meetings! Sharing these effective feedback examples will also build their confidence.
  • Lack of clarity. It may seem obvious to you what it is you want feedback on, but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to your coworker. Your requests need to be clear, simple and direct (see ‘be clear about the feedback your requesting’ below).
  • Lack of confidence. The most valuable feedback you can receive is also likely to be the most difficult for your coworkers to share with you. As a result, you need to build their trust over time, which is another reason why you should make seeking feedback a regular habit (see ‘listen and be open to the feedback’ below).

Keep these three points in mind as you read through the details below regarding how to request feedback from coworkers.

How to request feedback from coworkers

Here are 5 steps that guide you through how to request feedback from coworkers and how to benefit from that feedback!

Step 1: Plan your approach

Requesting feedback should be something that you do regularly and strategically to support your development goals.

This requires a little planning.

What are the topics that you want to seek feedback on? Do you have specific development areas in mind? What relates closest to your development needs and career plans? What are your biggest areas of concern and opportunity?

Who will you seek feedback from? Do you have 1-2 coworkers who you admire and want to cultivate as trusted advisors? Are their different coworkers you’d like feedback from on different topics? Who are all the people that you’d value feedback from and how are you going to integrate that into a coherent plan?

When will you seek feedback? You may have regular activities you undertake that you want feedback on. There may also be special projects you’d like feedback on.

Give a little thought to these 3 questions to help you get into the habit of regularly seeking feedback that’s from people you trust, focused on topics that are most important to you.

Step 2: Discuss the opportunity with your coworker

Once you have an idea of who you’d like to get feedback from, chat with them in advance. When the opportunity arises, explain to them that you’re hoping to get their feedback.

You might say something like this:

I’m looking to enhance my performance at work, I’d really appreciate it if you’d be willing to give me some honest and open feedback on some of the work I do, is that possible?

If your coworker seems open to providing feedback, go on to explain:

I’ll always let you know in advance what I’m hoping to get feedback on. For example, maybe how I perform in a meeting, and we’d catch up for a quick chat afterwards so I can get your feedback. Is that OK?

Discuss receiving feedback with your coworkers in this way and you’ll soon have a small pool of people that you can go to and request feedback.

Step 3: Be clear about the feedback you’re requesting

There are 2 ways to request feedback that make it clear what you’re expecting and give you a good chance of getting some useful feedback.

There’s the generic approach, which is great if you’re not sure about the development opportunity:

After the meeting I’d like your feedback on one thing that I did well and one thing that I could improve, is that OK?

And there’s the specific approach, which works best if you have a specific issue in mind:

I’m concerned that I talk too quickly during meetings, could you just keep any eye on that for me in the upcoming meeting and we can catch up afterwards to discuss.

Of course, it may not be a meeting. It could be a client presentation, a negotiation, a team meeting, your general behavior around the office. Any behavior that can be observed by your coworkers can be a topic for feedback!

Step 4: Listen and be open to the feedback

Make sure that when you get the feedback you’re listening and open to the value of the feedback.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Thank your coworker for the feedback.
  2. Resist the temptation to respond defensively. Remember, the most valuable feedback is likely a little surprising when you first hear it! You don’t need to explain yourself or justify your approach or defend your actions. That’s not part of the process and not helpful in building a trusted relationship.
  3. Ask probing questions to clarify and better understand the feedback. For example, you may get the feedback “You seemed a little nervous”. Good follow up questions would be: thank you for that feedback, what was I doing that gave you that impression? What should I have done differently?
  4. Summarize your understanding. As you receive the feedback: summarize your understanding, summarize what you’ll do differently in the future and ask big open questions such as “is there anything else you’d like to add?”.
  5. Thank them again and promise follow up.

Step 5: Act and close the loop

Finally, act on the feedback. This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly what was suggested. It means you need to think about the feedback you’ve received, evaluate it, and take ownership of any actions you’re going to take as a result.

Then, go back to the person who gave you the feedback. Let them know what you did differently, let them know the impact, and thank them again. And seek their permission to request further feedback: “is it OK if I seek your feedback again in the future?”.

One last thought

If you really want to make seeking feedback from coworkers easy, then help to make giving effective feedback part of the culture of your organization.

There are many ways in which you can do this: consider encouraging project premortems as well as postmortems, have a collective feedback discussion at the end of a meeting to explore how to establish more effective meetings, make a habit of giving effective feedback yourself.

All these activities will help to establish a culture of feedback that makes it easier for you to ask your coworkers.

In Summary

There are many benefits of getting into a regular habit of requesting feedback from coworkers and the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

There are 5 steps to get maximum benefit from feedback from your coworkers:

  1. Plan your approach: what, who, when
  2. Make the request for feedback in advance of the activity
  3. Be clear about the feedback you’re requesting
  4. Listen and be open to the feedback
  5. Act and close the loop

Take these 5 steps, and build a culture of feedback, and you’ll soon be accelerating your development through feedback!

Dive deeper

Learn more about receiving feedback