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How to get the kind of feedback you need from your boss

Want to know how you’re doing at work? You might just have to learn how to ask.

How to get the kind of feedback you need from your boss

Sometimes, the truth hurts. But when it comes to your performance at work, honest feedback—knowing exactly where you’re nailing it, and where you’re falling short—is the only way to move ahead. In fact, recent Gallup research shows that employees who receive regular feedback from their managers perform better for their teams and companies.  

While some people fear performance reviews or even occasional check-ins, younger workers crave it. In fact, according to a survey by Harvard Business School and SAP SuccessFactors, millennials value their boss’s input 50% more than other generations.

Yet despite this thirst for input, the Gallup poll showed that only 19% of millennials receive routine feedback from their manager—and only 17% said what they do receive is meaningful.  Granted, millennials aren’t entirely off the hook for that, since a meager 15% reported that they routinely ask their boss for feedback.

The solution? “If you want feedback, you need to be proactive and ask for it,” says career coach Phyllis Mufson. Since asking for your boss’s input (and time) may not come naturally to everyone, we’ve outlined a strategy you can use to get the valuable information you need. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to boost your performance—and put yourself one step closer to snagging a big raise or promotion this year.

Set up regular check-ins

To improve quickly and effectively, you don’t want to have to wait until your annual review to discuss your performance with your boss. However, unless you initiate, you may have to wait. Also, some companies are doing away with annual reviews altogether.

“Some managers just don’t like giving feedback, so they’re not going to volunteer it,” says Jack Molisani, author of Be the Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement.  “A lot are reluctant because they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, or they’re introverts and they’re afraid of confrontation,” Molisani says.  

To ensure you receive feedback on a consistent basis, ask your manager to meet for 30 minutes monthly or quarterly (depending on his or her availability) to discuss your performance. These routine talks will enable you to correct any behaviors that might be negatively affecting your performance, says Chip Espinoza, author of Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader.  He also suggests sending a follow-up email after each meeting briefly recapping the conversation and thanking your boss for their time. That way, they’ll know you appreciate them taking the time, and you’ll have a record of what you discussed.

Drill down to specifics

To prepare for your one-on-one pow-wows, let your boss know in advance what topics you’d like to discuss. (In other words, don’t just walk in and ask, “Hey, how do you think I’m doing?”)

Molisani recommends you find out upon what criteria your boss is judging your performance. For example, if you recently completed data entry for a project, were you working fast enough? If you just delivered a pitch to a client, how can you improve your communication skills?

Also, think about how your manager is being graded. “The better you can make your boss look, the better off you’ll look to your manager,” Molisani points out.

Get input in real time

In addition to setting up recurring meetings with your boss, there are certainly instances where you should solicit feedback on the spot—while the task is fresh in your boss’s mind.

Team or client presentations are great feedback opportunities. However, Espinoza recommends giving your boss a head’s up that you’d like feedback—“that way you’re not putting your manager on the spot,” he says. And, once again, ask for specifics (e.g., “Did I speak clearly?” “How was my body language?”)

Another appropriate time to ask your boss for advice is when you need help troubleshooting. (“I’ve run into an issue. Here’s what is happening. What do you recommend doing?”) “If you don’t ask for feedback and find out later on that you did something wrong, you don’t have any time to correct that behavior,” says Espinoza.

Record all your feedback

Be sure to take thorough notes every time you receive input from your manager. Keeping a log of constructive criticism will enable you to track your progress, while .keeping a record of your accomplishments will give you evidence that you can use the next time you ask for a raise, says Mufson.

Metrics-based achievements (e.g., exceeded annual sales goals by 50%, or increased the department’s revenue by 10%) are most compelling when negotiating a pay bump.