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April 19, 2019

Not Getting Any Feedback at Work? Here’s How to Seek it Out

Are you the kind of employee who gives 110% to a work project and expects your supervising managers will notice and acknowledge your effort? Or are you the kind who needed additional resources to complete a project and wondered why your VP did not come to you with a recommendation of how she could provide the needed assistance? If you said yes then you are probably also the kind who will quit without having the situation resolved.  Gallup reported that voluntary turnover (read: employees who quit) can cost U.S. companies 1 trillion dollars.

One trillion dollars saved could finance a lot of resources for a lot of new projects and probably stop a lot of existing employees from leaving.  If 52% of “the exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving,” it is time to find out what that “something” is and make it a part of a manager’s performance criteria.  For that to happen managers and leaders need to do better at inquiring about an employees’ job satisfaction throughout the course of a year.  

Leaders of all forms need to stop using the ‘garbage can approach’ to annual reviews, using one time a year to cover all the good, the bad and the ugly.  Informal, but consistent, casual conversations focused on an employee’s personal satisfaction and well-being about their job and the organization may go a long way in reducing unwanted employee exits.  When only 51% of existing employees had such a conversation in the 3 months before they left, there is a lot of room for leadership improvement. 

Here is the really bad news. Whether or not you end up with a great manager or leader who values your satisfaction and well-being is outside your control.  

Sure, managers and leaders can prevent these losses by checking in with their staff, but the unhappy employee could also have also taken the responsibility to speak up, share feedback, and initiate the conversation about their job satisfaction. The problem is, as much as we think we want to be asked how we are and how we are doing, we really only want neutral to good information.  We know how to have a ‘Facebook’ conversation.  A ‘Facebook’ conversation is the equivalent of answering ‘fine’ when someone asks how you are.   More than one research study has shown we avoid feedback because we’re afraid of feedback and feedback does not work anyway. A recent Harvard Business Review cover went so far as to declare feedback a failure.  We don’t like getting feedback and we avoid delivering negative information because we don’t want to be seen as unsupportive of the organization’s goals.  

Now for the very good news.  When those 52% of voluntarily exits are leaving, they are not leaving because they did not get feedback.  They are leaving because they did not feel supported.  They, their satisfaction and well-being were systemically ignored.  Being ignored is something you can control and in so doing breakdown your fear of feedback

You can take control and actually take the fear out of feedback and have the conversations you want to have with your managers by initiating the conversations yourself.  Here are five steps to getting started.   

Step 1:  Know thyself.  Knowing what brings you satisfaction and enhances your well-being and performance is an internal job.  Start by knowing your top strengths.  A quick trick to satisfaction on the job is making sure you get to use your top strengths at work.

Step 2: Initiate it. Armed with the knowledge of your strengths, use them often in conversation with your manager.  Being specific such as, “I am really challenged with the project because I am not getting to use my natural leadership skills,” gives information she may be able to help correct.

Step 3:  Don’t wait for your manager to come to you with a criticism. Instead, set a personal calendar to initiate feedback sessions with peers and supervisors once a quarter.

Step 4: Structure it. Tailor the session to something specific, like your work on the current project, your ability to collaborate within a team, or your capacity to think creatively.

Step 5: Acknowledge It. The key to making feedback sessions work is to acknowledge the advice, develop a plan to improve, and schedule a follow up to track your progress.

Remember the grass will not necessarily be greener at another organization because the same person (YOU) with the same habits will be mowing the grass.  No matter where you go your grass goes with you so consider adding a little fertilizer before you go looking for greener pastures.


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Often called a “Success Sherpa” Dr. Andrea Goeglein is a Workplace & Career Psychologist specializing in Positive Psychology. Andrea is the Founder of ServingSuccess and helps individuals, entrepreneurs, & CEOs reach their goals while increasing their levels of happiness, productivity, and satisfaction. She’s been interviewed by The Rachel Ray Show, CBS News, Forbes, Quartz, The Huffington Post, Brit + Co, Recruiter, The Ladders, and many others.

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