Hungry for Constructive Feedback? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I get no feedback.

I like my job, my boss, the team I work with, and my company. At every annual review I write my own review first and my manager adds her two cents, always pointing out ways I contribute that I hadn’t thought about or had forgotten. So I do get feedback, and it is always positive, which is nice.

I realize this sounds crazy, but I want more constructive feedback so I can grow and get better. I guess I want to be more challenged.

How can I go about getting more feedback without seeming dissatisfied?

Wanting More


Dear Wanting More,

You don’t sound crazy. You sound lucky. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate your position, because it is a rare one: Your boss obviously thinks you are great and is totally happy with the job you are doing.

And—I get it. It sounds like you might be a little bored.

I think your first stop is your boss. Tell her you are looking for a challenge and you either want to get better at the job you are doing or maybe take on something new. You can be crystal clear that you aren’t unhappy or dissatisfied, just wanting to shake things up a little. The ideal time for this is at your annual review; but if that seems too far away, you can ask for a meeting. I am surprised your manager hasn’t checked in with you about your dreams, your job satisfaction, your career aspirations.

Another thought is to ask your colleagues, teammates, and internal and (if applicable) external customers for feedback to see if there is anything you could do that would make working with you easier. You could simply ask:

  • Is there anything you wish I would start or stop doing?
  • Is there anything you wish I did more or less of?
  • Is there anything you think I should know that could make me more effective or help me add more value?

You never know what you might find out.

I guess it is always possible that there is something you do that stops people from offering suggestions or developmental feedback. Is it possible that in the past you have become defensive? Only you can know the answer to that, and it will serve you to admit the truth to yourself. If you think this might be the case, make sure you go into asking for feedback with an open mind. It takes some grace to accept feedback that might be a surprise or feel personal.

Prepare to respond to anything you hear with one of three options:

  • Thank you.
  • I understand.
  • Tell me more.

This will ensure that people who have the courage to tell you something they think you need to hear will feel heard and won’t feel punished for going out on a limb.

There is also a big difference between seeking/hearing feedback and making a decision to actually do something with it. One way of rewarding people for giving you feedback is to loop back with them and let them know what you are doing with their advice. If you choose not to do anything, you can just tuck it away for future reference.

Remember also that feedback always says more about the person giving it than the person getting it. So write everything down. Give yourself some space and time to absorb, process, and decide what is going to make a difference to your success and what isn’t. Resolve to take nothing personally.

You might be opening a can of worms here, so you will want to be prepared for that. Or maybe you are like Mary Poppins—“practically perfect in every way”—wouldn’t that be grand? If that is the case, your next step will be to figure out if you are, in fact, bored and what goals you might set next to create your next challenge.

Thanks for asking such a surprising question.

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

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