Feedback is a topic that comes up all the time when working with a team. I definitely know its value and appreciate it when it comes, but it’s difficult to both remember to ask for it and to stay open to it.
First off, asking for someone’s opinion of your work can be pretty scary, and very easy to avoid as well. If you don’t ask, you won’t find out that it’s bad. Why would you punish yourself? Like most things, my default around this seems to be remaining quiet. The problem with this is that feedback helps us grow, and growing is good. It helps us do better next time.
One of the biggest things that I’ve found to help is to ask very specifically for it. After a meeting is over, asking your supervisor about how they thought you did. Or, after a presentation, sending a Slack message to a few key individuals to ask about how it went. Small, specific bits of feedback are super helpful and easy for someone else to give. Asking someone about how good you are at your job in general is a very tricky thing to answer.
Taking this further, it’s good to ensure that space is left for feedback. Oftentimes, feedback is requested in a group setting, which isn’t a very good forum for honest feedback. An asynchronous way to send in feedback at someone’s own pace is much better, whether that’s just an email or Slack message. I think that sometimes we’re scared of getting too much feedback, especially if we’re leaving it open to an entire group of people, but more feedback is always better!
Asking for feedback is good, but getting unsolicited feedback is better! One thing I really appreciate is when someone takes the time to comment on how I did. It’s really nice to receive, but can be difficult to give. You can really make someone’s day if you give them positive reinforcement. I haven’t found a good, structured of going about this, but sometimes it’s the spontaneity that makes it special anyhow.
After everything that I’ve said here, I would also like to look at this in the opposite way. Sometimes, too much feedback is bad. And, if we’re constantly evaluating how someone else is doing at something, we miss the valiant effort that they made to begin with. No one is running at 100% all the time. It’s when you’re having a bad day that you really don’t want to give or receive feedback. If I’m having a bad day, I’m unimpressed with everyone else, and that’s just not my true feeling. That’s more about my bad day. It’s good to remember that feedback has its proper time and place.
I'm a web developer at Washington University in St. Louis. I write about WordPress, CSS, JS, accessibility, and more.