How to request feedback: a detailed, easy-to-use guide

Requesting feedback at work can be daunting (for both yourself and your team members!). To help get you started I’ve developed this detailed, easy-to-use guide. It takes you step-by-step through how to request feedback from your coworkers, how to request feedback from your manager, and how to build a culture of feedback within your team.

Take it section by section, jump down the page to:

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.

Here are 5 steps that guide you through requesting 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 event, or 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 open to the value of the feedback.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Listen to understand, without interrupting. Don’t get too analytical, too quickly. Keep an open mind and simply listen to understand what is being said. Here’s more on how to be a better listener.
  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 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.

Then, seek their permission to request further feedback: “is it OK if I seek your feedback again in the future?”.

Requesting feedback from coworkers: in summary

There are many benefits of getting into a regular habit of requesting feedback 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

How to request quick feedback by email

The 5-step approach we’ve outlined above is the best way to request feedback. It enables you to build supportive relationships and get quality feedback.

But sometimes work is unpredictable. Sometimes you just need some quick feedback and an email is good enough.

Here’s how to ask for feedback by email, with examples (use them as templates for your own emails).

All these feedback email examples follow our guidance on how to write effective emails.

There are 5 examples in all:

  1. Requesting feedback on work-in-progress
  2. Peer review feedback
  3. Meeting / presentation skills feedback
  4. Requesting feedback from your manager
  5. Requesting feedback from someone in a different team

All these examples can be adjusted for your preferred style and also the degree of formality that you want use, depending on the relationship that you have with the person you’re requesting feedback from.

Email example 1: requesting feedback on work-in-progress

This first example of seeking feedback by email is more focused on the work, rather than your performance. In this case it’s particularly important to highlight why giving feedback is important (to the person giving the feedback!).

Requesting feedback by email example 1

Make sure that the request is clear up front. Put the details after you’ve clearly stated the required action, why it’s important and the deadline for the action.

Email example 2: peer review feedback

Peer reviews are increasingly common, if you’re involved in a peer review, this example gives you a great template for seeking feedback from your peers.

Requesting feedback by email example 2

When requesting feedback (especially by email) it’s always good to ask for feedback on what you’ve done well first. Providing feedback on what you’ve done well gives the person permission to also highlight on what you need to improve.

And the ‘one thing that I don’t do’ question is fresh perspective and prompts the person to think a little more deeply. Often this can provide the most useful feedback of all!

Email example 3: meeting / presentation feedback

Sometimes the feedback you need is focused on a specific skill or task. Meeting skills and presentation skills are a perfect example, because there are always other people in the meeting, who can provide the feedback!

Requesting feedback by email example 3

This example really highlights the benefit of asking for feedback in advance. The quality of the feedback would be higher if JiYoung had been asked in advance of the meeting to consider these points as the meeting was taking place.

Email example 4: requesting feedback from your manager

There’s much more on seeking feedback from your manager, below. Ideally this should be done face-to-face (or virtual face-to-face), perhaps as part of a 1-1 meeting. However, sometimes it’s easiest to get it started with an email.

Here’s an example of an email seeking feedback from a manager, on specific competencies.

Requesting feedback by email example 4

Email example 5: requesting feedback from someone in a different team

Coworkers in other teams can provide a completely different perspective, which can provide useful insights.

Adapt this template to your needs…

Requesting feedback by email example 5

Consider mentioning at the start of the email that it’s your habit to reach out to request feedback on your performance.

Seeking feedback is still quite an unusual activity and this will put your coworker at ease, and put your request in to context.

How to request feedback by email, in summary

Sometimes all you need is some quick feedback, on activities that have already taken place. Requesting feedback by email can meet that need.

Points to remember:

  • Give the person a reason for replying (ideally something that is important to them, but it can just be your gratitude!)
  • Be clear and specific about the feedback you need
  • Set a deadline (even if it’s just a polite “if you could get back to me this week that would be great!“)

How to request feedback from your manager: a simple route to success!

Do you want a successful career? I assume you do! In which case it’s essential that you learn how to ask for feedback from your manager too.

Why? Because in so many ways it’s your manager that holds the keys to your success at work!

Requesting feedback from your manager follows many of the same principles you’ve seen applied above, but includes one critical additional consideration: building your reputation with your manager as you seek feedback.

The benefits of asking for feedback from your manager

Here are the 3 main benefits of asking for feedback.

1. Strengthen your working relationship

The relationship with your manager is always the most important in your working life. You may manage a team, or have other internal stakeholders, or external customers. All of these are important and require investment, but it’s the relationship with your manager which is most important to your success.

Your manager knows they should be giving employee feedback: but they’re short of time, they find it stressful, and they themselves aren’t supported to provide feedback to you. Make it easy for them to give you feedback. You’ll build a stronger and closer working relationship which will serve you well.

2. Learn to improve in your current role

The feedback you receive will help you improve your performance in your current role. You can achieve this in two ways.

First, by asking for feedback on specific skills. This allows you to focus in on specific development opportunities.

Second, by asking for general performance advice. This approach gives your manager permission to ‘go wide’ and raise any topics that they feel will be of help to you.

3. Be prepared for future roles

Finally, asking for feedback from your manager is a great way to help you prepare for future roles. Whatever your level in the organization it’s difficult to anticipate and prepare for success at the levels above you. Your manager can help you.

Learning how to ask for feedback from your manager regarding future roles has several benefits:

  • You are signaling your interest in moving your career forward
  • When the opportunity arises, you’ll be better prepared
  • And finally, will already be in the ‘shop window’ for consideration

Of course, don’t do this as soon as you move into a new role. Start to have these ‘future role’ conversations at the time you feel right for your career progression.

4 things to do before you ask for feedback

Before you ask for feedback you need to be prepared.

Reflect on previous conversations with your manager

What have you already heard from your manager about your performance? Perhaps there’s feedback that you have already received? Or previous performance conversations you need to consider?

Make sure these are front-of-mind, you may need to refer to them as you request feedback. Why? Because everyone likes to know that they have been listened to, especially your manager.

Review your current goals and job description

It helps to be clear about which skills and capabilities are a required part of your role and how they will help you achieve your current goals. This is important context to your requests for feedback.

For example:

I know that leading sales discussions with C-level customers is part of my role, I’d appreciate your feedback on how to continue to improve in this area.

It just makes you look smart to tie your request for feedback to your job description.

Decide what you want feedback on

Keep in mind that to give effective feedback your manager must have observed your behavior. This will automatically limit the topics that you can get feedback on.

Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What do you want feedback on and why?
  • How does this fit within your overall development plan?

A good manager will ask you these questions as part of your discussions, it’s best to be prepared!

Connect your thoughts to your company’s culture and values

Take a little time to reflect on your company’s culture, values and business strategy. In discussions with your manager you will look particularly competent if you can make connections between your performance, your development needs, the role and the company.

For example:

I know that process innovation is a key part of our company strategy, I’d like to get your feedback on the plans that I’m developing.

Again, it makes you look smart if you can tie back your development to the company’s strategic direction.

How and when to ask for feedback from your manager

First, ask permission

If you’ve rarely received any feedback from your manager, then ask them if it’s OK. Find the appropriate opportunity and ask:

I’d really appreciate if I could get your feedback on my performance. I want to improve, and I know your feedback will help me do that.

Make it clear that you have specific skill areas that you’d like feedback on, as well as being open to their suggests regarding development focus.

I have some specific topics that I’d like your feedback on, that relate to my development plan, and I’m also open to hear your suggestions too. Is that OK?

Tell them in advance what you want feedback on

You’ll get much better-quality feedback if you can tell your manager in advance that you want the feedback. It also shows good planning and helps your manager.

This upcoming meeting is a big opportunity for me, it’s the first time I’ve pitched a proposal to a customer. I’d really appreciate your feedback after the meeting, can you please keep an eye one thing I did well, and one thing that I could improve? I’ll schedule a little time with you after the meeting to discuss. Is that OK?

Or perhaps there are specific areas of feedback that you’d like to focus on:

I’m excited about this upcoming presentation. I know there are going to be plenty of questions from the audience. I know that answering questions is a skill that I need to develop, can you please keep in mind anything that I should improve on?  

Schedule time for the feedback

Don’t put your manager on the spot or expect them to come up with feedback at a moment’s notice. After you’ve asked for feedback, schedule some time with them. This doesn’t need to be a long time, maybe just 15-20 mins.

Take the feedback, ask any questions needed to clarify the feedback, and thank them. Don’t get defensive, don’t feel that you must justify yourself or your actions. That is not a helpful part of the process.

Make sure your follow through

Asking for feedback from your manager should not be a one-off activity. It should be baked-in to your working relationship.

To make this happen, make sure you:

  • Take action as a result of the feedback
  • Reflection on the results of your actions
  • Close the loop with your manager: tell them what you did, what was the result, what you learnt, and what you will continue to do in the future
  • Thank them for the support

In summary: how to request feedback from your manager

There are 4 things to do before you ask for feedback:

  1. Reflect on previous conversations with your manager
  2. Review your current goals and job description
  3. Decide what you want feedback on
  4. Connect your thoughts to your company’s culture and values

All this preparation will help you look smart, get the feedback you need and build your relationship with your manager.

When asking for feedback from your manager:

  1. First, ask permission
  2. Tell them in advance what you want feedback on
  3. Schedule time for the feedback
  4. Make sure you follow through

And as you progress, remember that in times of change, success is not just about learning. You will need to learn, unlearn and relearn to be successful.

How to build a culture of feedback

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.

Also, you can embrace feedback as one of the activities that will help develop a growth mindset.

All of this will help to establish a culture of feedback that makes it easier for you to request feedback.

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

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