Why Is It So Hard Requesting Feedback From Employees?

Requesting feedback from employees can be one of the most important steps to improving leadership skills. However, it can be uncomfortable and even difficult to solicit! It can be equally hard to both ask for feedback and to provide feedback for managers. If feedback is such a good thing, which it undoubtedly is for both leaders and team members at all levels, why is it so hard to request? Why do people dislike both getting it and giving it? We will discuss all of this and more in further detail!

At Projections, we have decades of experience providing custom solutions for many organizations when it comes to eLearning, custom video, and communication tools. While we’ve been able to help multiple organizations improve employee engagement and retention and support union-free workplaces, we find that many managers and supervisors face a common issue when requesting feedback from employees.

Our podcast, ProjectHR, had the pleasure of interviewing M. Tamra Chandler, co-author of Feedback (and other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It, How To Fix It and get her professional input on the whole feedback process– offering, receiving, and giving, and why feedback is the “secret sauce” to increasing a leader’s effectiveness! We’ll cover some of the issues with feedback, how leaders can get over this fear of feedback, and some tips on how to not only ask for but act on the feedback you receive from your team members.

“All of us want to grow, all of us want to thrive, all of us want to know that we’re valuable and that the work that we do matters — and it’s through feedback that we can do all of those things.” — M. Tamra Chandler

What's The Problem With Feedback?

Part of the problem when it comes to requesting (or giving) feedback is that we associate feedback with fear. We fear receiving criticism or feeling like we’re doing our job incorrectly. Conversely, it can be scary to deliver feedback as well. Let alone deliver feedback for managers, who are our superiors in the workplace. We don’t want to create tension or strain workplace relationships. So many people inherently associate any form of feedback with negativity.

tips for requesting feedback from employees

This stigma is rooted back in our childhood when we get negative feedback from people, and those words stick. So, the big question is: how do we decrease fear and increase trust? The bottom line is that we have to start viewing feedback as a positive thing to give and receive. People always say that they want more constructive feedback than positive feedback, but that isn’t necessarily true. People want and crave positive feedback from one another.

Overcoming The Fear of Feedback

The good news, and the premise of the book, Feedback (and other Dirty Words), is that feedback doesn’t have to stay broken. The book offers a new definition of feedback and states that feedback shouldn’t hurt – it should help people grow, thrive, and advance because we’re all working to improve! Trust is the root of all foundations of positive feedback. When people trust each other and connect, they open up. Positive connections make all kinds of relationships thrive, including workplace relationships. Ultimately, trust is key, and it is developed through connections.

Going into conversations with a genuine desire to learn what people are dealing with will go a long way in developing trust in the workplace. As a leader, take the initiative to understand what your team members are going through. For example, embrace the premise of being a servant leader: listening with the intent to understand, being empathetic, and lead with integrity. This is how you can build trust and connect on a deeper level with employees. This connection will make it easier to receive feedback from employees as well as offer feedback for managers.

Understanding & Fixing Feedback

Ms. Chandler’s book shares that there are three roles when it comes to the feedback process: the Seeker, the Receiver, and the Extender:

1. The Seeker goes after feedback that matters to them.

2. The Receiver takes in feedback, whether they’re looking for it or not.

3. The Extender has to engage in conversations that help the seekers.

Furthermore, she discussed with us The Three F’s of fixing the feedback process: Fairness, which is about setting aside our perspectives, biases, prejudices, and judgments to receive feedback. Focus, which is about focusing and zeroing in on one thing since we can’t process too many things at one time. As leaders, you must choose one area to focus on at a time. Lastly, frequency is about asking several different people for feedback regularly. Frequency is a huge driver against bias. The more frequent feedback we receive, the fewer biases that are left to influence us. Focusing on these three F’s and implementing them within your organization will positively affect your workplace. Not only that, it will lead to a more trustworthy environment with open communication and an increased likelihood of positive and frequent 360-degree feedback.

offering feedback for managers

Respectful Ways To Provide Feedback To Managers

Take into account the study that showed the top 10% of people who ask for feedback were in the 86th percentile for leadership effectiveness. Meanwhile, the bottom 10% of people who ask for feedback were in the 15th percentile for leadership. Feedback is what Ms. Chandler refers to as the “secret sauce” to increasing a leader’s effectiveness! Team members want their leaders to help them thrive at work, and leaders can help them do this by opening up the conversation surrounding feedback. The following are some tips you can implement at work in order to foster 360 degree feedback within your organization: delivering feedback to your employees regularly and soliciting it from them in a positive way will make all the difference!

  1. Be professional and direct. It’s understandable if an error or mistake that an employee has made has severe consequences and can lead to tension or a difficult conversation. Approach the employee with a calm and cool head, explain your expectations as a leader, and use constructive and positive feedback to avoid issues in the future.
  2. Open a dialogue – don’t just talk “at” or down to your team members. Remember, the way to develop trust and pave the way for 360-degree feedback in your organization is to keep the conversation positive. While you are delivering feedback, seek to understand and communicate with them. This is also an opportunity to ask for ways that they think you can improve as a leader.
  3. Offer frequent feedback. Annual performance reviews are beneficial, but they don’t allow you to have regular conversations surrounding feedback with your team members. Communicate regularly and often with your employees, and maintain an open-door policy to encourage them to provide you with that same feedback. The key is trust and transparency!

Some of the benefits of positive feedback include boosted employee engagement, morale, and of course, helps both your employees and your organization as a whole thrive! As we stated before, it’s important to deliver feedback to your employees and solicit feedback. Understandably so, you may find that you’re still not fully confident requesting feedback from employees and need some guidance to successfully do so. Here are some questions to ask for feedback from employees to increase your leadership effectiveness with ways to improve.

1. What processes do you think our company could improve upon?

2. How can we improve communication between managers/supervisors and team members?

3. What can the company (or what can I) do to help you be more successful?

4. What area do you feel you could use improvement in? How can I/we support you?

5. How do you think I could improve my communication skills?

6. How confident do you feel about the way management handles conflict? Feedback?

Of course, this is just a short list, but hopefully, it gives you some ideas to get the conversation started and work to foster a culture filled with positive 360-degree feedback!

Leadership Training On Requesting Feedback From Employees

If your organization’s managers need help with requesting feedback from employees, our A Better Leader lesson titled “Requesting Feedback” is just what you need! You can schedule a free demo or sign up for a 14-day trial to get started with your first training today.

In our "Requesting Feedback" training, you’ll learn the following:

  • Why feedback is so important
  • How to create an environment that supports asking for feedback
  • Get tips on how to ask for feedback, accept it, and make it work!

Here’s a preview of what the lesson is all about:

This “Requesting Feedback” lesson from A Better Leader will discuss how transformational leaders inspire an environment where feedback is offered and valued, moving the organization forward. Since employees are three times more engaged when their leader communicates with them regularly, it is crucial that your leaders understand what it means to support workers with not only professional goals, but personal ones as well!

Jennifer Orechwa

In over 25 years of helping companies connect with their employees, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of continuous improvement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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