June 22, 2021

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Peer Feedback – What You Want to Hear vs. What you need to hear

Identifying growth opportunities and asking for feedback in the workplace can be difficult. Your colleague may not tell you what you want to hear, but hopefully they will tell you what you need to hear.

Asking for feedback can be a very rewarding experience if you ask the right questions to the right person at the right time. And you should have a learning attitude to receive their feedback and suggestions.

How to ask for feedback

You may be wondering how to ask for feedback, especially if you’ve never asked a co-worker or co-worker what they think about your abilities, performance, or perceived behavior. It takes some humility and vulnerability to reach out and ask another person’s opinion of you, but it can be extremely rewarding.

Here are some tips for asking your colleague for feedback and getting much-needed feedback for your professional development goals.

Find the right person to give you feedback

When thinking about finding someone to ask for feedback, it’s best to identify the right person and alert them very carefully. Stopping a random person in the hallway or break room is probably not the best method for what you need.

Here are some people who may be suitable for providing professional feedback:

  • Your direct report or manager
  • Collaborators who regularly work on the same team
  • Collaborators with whom you work semi-regularly

You can schedule an individual meeting or ask them for critical feedback via email. You will need to make sure that this person constantly sees you at work so that they can see the changes as you make changes.

Find the right time to ask for feedback

Not only is asking the right person a vital step in the process, but asking at the right time is just as important.

Don’t ask for feedback during peak season or when things are banged up at work. Adding one more thing to your coworker’s full pot won’t earn you any favors.

It’s best to ask your co-worker for feedback when things are slower than usual and they’re willing to pay close attention to your questions. You can also notify them before asking for feedback. Or send them an email with clear instructions as to why you want to meet them.

You will also need to submit your questions ahead of time to give your colleague time to process and give you excellent feedback, rather than off-the-cuff “let me tell you why you’re here” answers.

Ask good questions for feedback

Speaking of questions, have a list of good questions Having your colleague respond is equally essential third factor in getting good feedback.

Your questions can be open-ended or have yes / no answers. If you ask a yes / no question, ask a follow-up question that allows for clarification or examples.

Here are some questions to consider when asking your colleague for feedback:

  • What growth opportunities do you think I should focus on?
  • How can I best manage my time?
  • How are my interactions with the team?
  • What parts of my responsibilities don’t get enough attention?
  • What can I do to help the company’s mission?

These are just a few examples. Consider asking a minimum of five questions, but no more than fifteen. You don’t want to overwhelm your co-worker (or yourself) with too many questions. The questions are there to help spark conversations and open the door to reveal areas for improvement and growth.

Listening to the comments of colleagues

Requesting feedback is only part of the process. Listening to your colleague’s response is essential for evaluating and changing, ultimately becoming the best collaborator and leader for your business.

When you meet one-on-one with your colleague, listen to their feedback, take notes, and ask follow-up questions. These are vital components when collecting feedback.

Listening skills

Active listening it’s a great skill to have and vital for getting feedback.

Listening skills include eye contact and correct facial expression and posture. Leaning back with your arms crossed and zoning is a bad idea for a productive feedback experience. Even if your co-worker tells you something you don’t necessarily want to hear, good posture is important.

You also want to make sure you really hear what they are saying. Don’t interrupt or try to defend yourself when they are providing examples of areas for improvement. Just listen.

Take note

We also recommend that you take notes during the feedback meeting. Having your list of questions in front of you and taking notes on what your colleague says will help you refer back later.

Let your colleague know that you will be taking notes so that it is not a distraction and that he knows that you are engaging in what he is saying. Especially if you are taking notes on a computer, communicating that you are simply taking notes for reference shows your colleague that you respect their input.

Ask follow-up questions

Even if you don’t want to interrupt your colleague, you do want to ask for clarification or examples when appropriate. These types of questions show your colleague that you take the process and their feedback seriously.

You can also ask to schedule a follow-up meeting at a later date, typically three months, six months, or a year later. This second meeting is a great time to pull your notes from the first meeting and ask follow-up questions to check for improvements.

Respond to negative feedback

It’s pretty much inevitable that you will hear negative feedback or something you don’t want to hear at your feedback meeting. Negative feedback is perfectly normal and, frankly, more important than positive feedback.

Negative feedback sheds light on the areas you need to improve. These types of comments are why you are asking for feedback in the first place.

Don’t respond to negative feedback right away. Process their input and, if necessary, get a second (or third) opinion on the subject. If you agree with their assessment, decide what actions to take to change the behavior. If you disagree with what they said, consider bringing it up later to resolve the issue.

Follow up with colleague feedback

Asking for feedback is challenging and rewarding at the same time. Next, create an action plan with clear steps on how you can improve in certain areas. Be sure to contact your colleague later to thank him for his contribution and ask if he sees any changes.

The feedback you receive may not be what you want to hear, but it is what you need to hear to improve as a colleague and grow your career.