Ask The Experts: How Can I Get My Boss To Give Me More Critical Feedback?

It may seem like a good problem to have, but if your boss is too busy to give you critical feedback you'll never get any better at your job.

Everybody has room for improvement—especially when you are just starting out. But it's impossible to improve when your boss is a control freak who would rather do everything herself than teach you what you're doing wrong.

It's not often that we hear someone asking to be criticized more, but in this case, we can understand.

Hi,

I have an odd complaint: My boss doesn’t give me enough critical feedback on my work.

I’m just starting out in my field, and need all the guidance I can get from people who have years of experience, but I’m afraid that my current superiors either don’t have the tools to help me learn from my mistakes or are too overwhelmed with their own day-to-day workload to guide me—my manager would rather quickly fix things herself and say nothing than take the time to show me the correct way. She’s a "perfectionist," but truly a control freak to a self-damaging degree. She works tons of overtime fixing other people’s mistakes, but is unwilling to delegate or speak up. It’s hurting the whole department, and I’m afraid it’s hurting my own skill growth.

How can I ask for more feedback without burdening her more?

Thanks,

New and Adrift


Dear New And Adrift,

The best bosses will make that investment and help you grow and develop, but it doesn't always work out that way, so you need to take your professional development into your own hands.

It’s actually one of the most valuable skills you can learn, because unfortunately you’re likely to be in the same situation more than once in your career.

Follow these simple steps to create your own personal development plan and address your manager with confidence:

State the issue. Tell your manager that you see how hard she works, and that you would like to make her life easier by doing well at your work. Tell her you have an idea that might work for both of you. A little investment each week can be a big investment in the future—yours and her own.

Once you have told your manager the issue, set up a plan that works for both of you.

Set up weekly meetings. Ask your manager if you can set up a regular time each week to meet to go over progress on your work, talk about new issues that might have come up, and get her input on questions you’ve encountered. Thirty minutes is ideal, but if all you can get is 15 minutes take it. If she is unwilling to doing it weekly, suggesting doing it every two weeks. Try to make the meetings casual and friendly—maybe even go out for lunch or take a walk.

Make sure it happens. Be accountable for your plan; make the meetings your responsibility. If one gets canceled because of something more important—and it will happen, trust me—reach out and reschedule the meeting again. Make it as easy as possible on her; offer to rearrange your own schedule to better fit with hers.

Take charge of the meeting for her. Write an agenda ahead of time and email it to her. Include the status of important projects; your top priorities for the next week or two, your progress against your broader goals if you have them, and any question you are struggling with. You can also use this time to ask for feedback on particular projects and even just generally ("How do you think things are going overall? Is there anything I could be doing differently?").

Be flexible. If your manager will not commit to regular meetings, then request them one by one. Space them out. Try emailing her periodically a list of topics you’d like to discuss, create an agenda, and ask to set up a time to meet about them. You’ll have to gauge how often is too often—every two weeks? Every three weeks? But give the weekly meeting a shot, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

I'm sure your manager doesn't want to work all those long hours, or work as hard as she does. Show that you take your job seriously and that you care about what is happening at work, not only with you but with her.

If you can create a relationship based on trust, she will have confidence in you and it will be easier to forge forward with feedback, questions, projects, or ideas managing your stakeholders. It will benefit you both.

It is always best when we can ask for what we want, but it is even better when we can be in charge of what we need. Let me know how it goes.

To much success,

Lolly


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3 Comments

  • "Thirty minutes is ideal, but if all you can get is 15 minutes take it." The only difference is that, if the manager is as stubborn as the letter author said, then this is pushing it. Ask for 15 minutes, be ready to settle for 5 - at least at first.

  • The manager in this situation is failing at her most important task, and that is managing. It appears that she may have been promoted into her current role without appropriate career development of her own. Perhaps the subordinate's request for feedback will help the manager recognize this and seek out the personal development coaching she herself needs.