A previous version of the article was published in March 2020.
Research has found roughly 87% of employees want to “be developed” in their job, but only a third report actually receiving the feedback they need to engage and improve.
One way to foster a healthy team culture is to implement a structured (yet flexible) peer-to-peer feedback loop. Engagement of this kind empowers your employees to work together, learn from each other, and improve the company as a whole in a supportive, caring environment.
However, asking for feedback isn’t always easy. It requires vulnerability on your part and professionalism on the part of your peers. Knowing when and how to ask for feedback takes practice. That said, receiving feedback from your peers is almost guaranteed to improve your work performance.
Are you looking for ways to boost team productivity and resilience? Consider reaching out to a colleague you trust for feedback. If you’re not sure where to start, consider the following five tips:
Tips on How to Ask for Feedback From Your Colleagues
Timing Is Everything
Springing a request for feedback on your colleagues without warning is high on the list of things you should avoid. Check in with your colleagues via email or when they don’t appear to be busy. This way, you can be respectful of their time when making your request.
That said, don’t go running around the entire office asking all of your colleagues for feedback. You’re looking for ways to boost your team’s productivity, after all. Instead, choose two or three colleagues whose opinions you value. Then, when they’re free, reach out and ask if they’d be willing to have a one-on-one with you. This way, you’ll be able to gather valuable feedback without disrupting your office’s daily flow.
Explain Your Motivation
Before your one-on-one, be sure to explain to your colleagues why you’re looking for feedback. Maybe you feel like you’re professionally lacking when compared to your peers. Maybe you’ve just come off a big assignment and you want to know how to be a better team player.
Whatever your motivations, spell them out from the beginning (understanding your DISC attributes can help with this). This way, your colleagues will understand what kind of feedback you’re looking for and how they can best give it to you.
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Ask the Right Questions
While explaining your motivation will give your colleague the right framework for your one-on-one, you’ll still need to direct it. Before you meet with your colleague, try to have several questions prepared. These questions should highlight the areas you want to improve, how past successes have influenced the team or organization, and so on. Some sample questions might include:
- Have I been taking care of my team members?
- How can I better support you in your work?
- Have you noticed any gaps in my professionalism?
- What skills can I improve to be a better employee?
- What do I do well now, and what can I improve on in the future?
- Do you think I interact enough with my team members? With you? With our manager?
Naturally, you don’t have to ask all of these questions. Consider using one or two as a springboard, though, to ease your colleague into the process of providing you feedback.
Stay on Topic
While natural digressions can serve you well, try to stay on topic during these feedback sessions. This means avoiding casual tangents as well as comments on your non-professional life. Your colleague’s feedback should always be about your presence in the workplace. If you notice your colleague discussing your behavior outside of the office, work with them to get back on track. If there is a conflict that exists between the two of you outside of a professional setting, that’s for you to handle at another time and away from the office. A one-on-one session should make it easier for you to better serve your teammates, not your friends.
How to Respond to Negative Feedback
More often than not, your colleagues are not going to be licensed therapists. As such, you can’t expect them to provide you with feedback that’s been perfectly framed to preserve your feelings. That said, it will hurt your working relationship if you ask a colleague for feedback and then react unprofessionally when they offer their honest review.
If a colleague shares feedback that frustrates or hurts you, don’t respond immediately. Let your colleague know that you’ll take what they’ve said into account. Then, go home. At a minimum, try to take a break to think about the feedback your colleague shared. Only once you’ve been able to separate your personal feelings from the feedback can you approach your colleague again and let her know how you intend to put her feedback into action. This can be productive if handled right. Healthy conflict is important for growth!
That said, you don’t always have to act on the feedback your colleagues give you. If you disagree with what’s been shared, take some time away. Once you feel ready, you can reach out to your colleague again and discuss whether or not their feedback was relevant.
Reaching out to your colleagues for feedback is the professional version of a trust fall. Your colleagues want to maintain office harmony and success as much as you do. Make an effort to create a feedback loop based on trust and sincerity, and your team will thrive.