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Editor's Note: While this article is written with the purpose of asking your employer for feedback, some of its tenets can also be applied to asking friends, loved ones, where you volunteer, committees you are on, etc. for feedback.

Not all bosses are forthcoming in providing feedback on their employees’ performance. If this is the case with your boss, and you’re pressed to know whether your performance is passing muster, you will have to be proactive.

Especially if you’re new to your job, it can be hard to understand your boss’s reticence. There could be a myriad of reasons why she remains detached that have nothing to do with you. It could be discomfort with pointing out anyone’s deficiencies, an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”, dealing with a personal matter, or simply being swamped with work.

No matter the issue, you need to avoid coming off as pushy. At the same time, don’t let too many months elapse before having your first sit-down with her. You need to make sure that you have enough time to course-correct before your official performance review.

Tips To Use When Asking for Feedback

Take these tips to heart when approaching your employer about critiquing your performance:

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  1. Wait for a quiet time.

    Try to perceive what projects your employer is overseeing. It may be that she needs some breathing space before you move forward with your request. While the time might seem right just as a major project wraps up, give your boss a few days to decompress before making your ask. If you find yourself in a holding pattern, use the time to prepare for Tip #2. 

  1. Make a specific request.

    Send an email asking for a short meeting and spelling out what kind of feedback you’re requesting. To focus your boss’s attention and prompt some ideas, list up to three things for which you’d like to receive input — such as a recent presentation, interaction with a client, or participation on a team project.

    Since this initial meeting will likely contribute to your overall formal evaluation, it’s a good idea to ask for this sit-down when you feel you are doing a good job. That said, see point 3.

  1. Prepare yourself: You may not like everything you hear.

    Chances are, not all feedback you receive will be glowingly positive. You may hear some criticism. For example, if a client or coworker has complained about you, it will surface during this meeting. Bring a notebook and take good notes. Above all, remain calm. You asked for this meeting, after all, so make it a productive interchange.

    Show appreciation for any insights your employer has to offer. If any corrective action is needed, work through a plan with your boss on how to make that happen.

  1. Maintain good eye contact throughout.

    If possible, leave your laptop behind so that you can give your boss your full attention. Looking him in the eye will convey that you are fully listening. Along with eye contact, your body language — sitting up straight instead of slouching, quieting your nervous energy instead of fidgeting, and keeping your expressions composed — will all meld to signify that you value the feedback you’re receiving.

  1. Use facts and examples to show your worth.

    Promote your successes in ways that quantify how you’ve contributed to the bottom line or the company’s stellar brand. Compile a short list in advance and send it to your boss the day of your meeting so they are top of mind. At the same time, let her know that you’re seeking advice on how to improve and maximize your efforts.

  1. Work with your boss to develop a growth plan (including likely raises).

    Explore ways to build your skills — both on the job and through courses you can take. Invite your boss to provide specific benchmarks in your endeavors to achieve your performance goals.

    If you believe you are deserving of a raise, share how your achievements have positioned you for a salary bump. If needed, provide information on the industry average for your position so your boss knows you’re not overreaching. If your boss wishes you to first meet performance measures before upping your salary, ask her to provide specific criteria and a timeline.

  1. Make sure to act on any feedback.

    Commit yourself to following through on any feedback you receive — and if possible, going above and beyond your boss’s expectations regarding any performance concerns.

    Without barraging your superior, provide periodic updates on your progress with a few examples of the strategies you’re pursuing.

Prompting your boss to provide you with constructive feedback will help pave the way for receiving periodic performance critiques in the future. Your boss will understand that offering both praise and pointers is necessary in propelling your career — as well as the business itself — forward.

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BOOK: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions

301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions: Land the Job of Your Dreams with the Ultimate Interview Prep Book
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book cover of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions by Vicky Oliver.In today's job market, how you perform in an interview can make or break your hiring possibilities. If you want to stand a head above the rest of the pack, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions is the definitive guide you need to the real, and sometimes quirky, questions employers are using to weed out candidates.

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About the Author

photo of Vicky OliverVicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-bestselling author of five books, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008), and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse, 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets.

Vicky is the Nonfiction Editor at LIT Magazine, the Journal of the New School Masters in Fine Arts Creative Writing, and teaches essay writing at the New York Writers Workshop. For more information, visit

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