Why this matters
Not all employees feel safe speaking up. Some are unlikely to provide feedback unless you request it. Even then, they may hesitate, suspecting that the call for feedback isn’t wholly genuine. They may fear your reaction if what they say isn’t what you want to hear.
When employees keep their opinion to themselves, issues can fester until they become a problem or even a crisis. By being open to giving and receiving feedback respectfully, you create a psychologically safer workplace. In addition, learning from your employees’ observations and perspectives can help inform and inspire your own decision-making in a way that can support success.
Explore and reflect
Introverts and extroverts
Some employees are really comfortable sharing their thoughts. Others need time to reflect and develop a response. When you understand how your employees prefer to get feedback from you, you’re more likely to understand how they prefer to give feedback to you. Although asking for feedback in a group setting can be effective, consider eliciting feedback from quieter employees in private.
Give advance notice about the specific feedback you’ll be eliciting from each employee at an upcoming meeting. This gives everyone a chance to think about their responses and avoids embarrassing people by putting them on the spot.
Feedback from individuals
When speaking privately to an employee about any issue, you might elicit feedback by asking:
- How did this conversation feel for you?
- Do you feel like I understand you properly?
- Ask this question after you paraphrase what you heard. For more information about this approach, see Listening to understand for leaders.
- Could I be missing something that would make this idea better?
- Is there anything I didn’t ask about that would be important for me to know?
- What do you think could potentially go wrong or become a challenge with this idea?
After asking any of these questions, rephrase their answer to show you heard their feedback. If appropriate, acknowledge how you’ll use or do something differently as a result of their feedback.
When you seeking feedback from an employee who’s upset or distressed for any reason, you may want to use the appreciative inquiry approach or some of the techniques from Communicating with an emotional employee.
Your reaction to feedback
Eliciting feedback from employees can be difficult if you interpret it as a criticism of you as a person. If this is the case, review Interpret negative feedback accurately. Understanding why you react to feedback the way you do allows you to manage your response more effectively.
Get started by actively eliciting feedback throughout the day. You may wish to have the sample questions above or those in the appreciative inquiry approach readily available to inspire you.
Observe how the feedback improves your relationships and your decision-making.