A Reader Writes:
My manager’s feedback is always positive, but very superficial. I think he’s insincere. I’m concerned that I’m not getting the constructive feedback I need to advance my skills and career. Is it wise to ask my peers or other supervisors for feedback?
The short answer is: asking feedback from peers and other supervisors is appropriate, as long as you do not disparage your own manager’s lack of feedback skills by doing so.
The longer answer is more nuanced: Because managers have power over us in such areas as performance reviews, compensation, promotions, and reputation, it is in your best interest to obtain useful feedback from them directly. It is a sad reality of our times that many managers are uncomfortable providing feedback because they are afraid of unanticipated reactions. Your manager needs your help. Encourage ongoing feedback throughout the year, especially after you did something. Did you just present a plan to senior management? Ask your boss: “Do you feel I persuaded the group? What specifically about my presentation makes you feel this way?” Did you just launch the first phase of your project plan? Ask: “What are your impressions so far? What measurable result would you like to see before we go to the next phase?” Have you just provided some just-in-time triage in an emergency? Tell your boss about the steps that you took and ask her how she viewed your contribution. Make it easier for your boss to provide constructive feedback. Don’t be defensive which is the root cause of a manager’s reliance on corporate speak to avoid hurt feelings. Thank them and ask how you could improve. Your primary aim in obtaining candid performance feedback is to uncover your career hindrances and hidden strengths for future roles here or elsewhere.