Know the shortest path to succeeding in your job?

What I crave in my role as a boss, is to feel that my team can complete my sentences. That they follow me like my shadow. That doesn’t mean they should always agree with me – but understand what I’m talking about, where I’m coming from and why — yes!

What’s the next best thing to seamless teamwork? And how do I know when someone who just joined our team is going to work out well? That’s when I’m asked frequently for feedback. This is best when done casually as part of our workflow and especially near the start of new projects or responsibilities.

taking criticism well

For example:

BAD: “Eric, can we schedule a time to talk about my job performance?”

GREAT: “Eric, how do you like what I’m doing? Is this what you had in mind? Any ideas for improvement?”

(by e-mail, IM, tel or VM, all great)

If you need to schedule time to ask for feedback, then you probably are not in the habit of asking and you’ve created a situation where your request may be perceived as an annoyance and the meeting itself a source of tension. Why?

If you are not in the habit of asking for frequent feedback, the meeting you requested comes too late. Too late to make changes to work that has already been done. If you haven’t asked me for feedback in nine months, I’ll assume that you are fearful and unreceptive. Or, I  may assume your interest level and commitment to the job are just average.

Whatever the reasons are, a lack of steady communication about performance, will eventually create tension between you and your boss. Of course, if you aren’t asking for feedback because I’m already giving you a steady stream of positive feedback, that’s understandable – we’ll probably have a good meeting if you insist.

Should the boss ask for feedback from the team also? Yes! While you’re waiting for the boss to ask you for feedback, here’s a checklist.

Ask for feedback:

  1. frequently & informally
  2. when starting new projects or responsibilities
  3. during or after a job interview
  4. with your own continuous improvement in mind
  5. to calibrate your efforts to current priorities & avoid wasting company resources
  6. to enhance your productivity and value to the company
  7. to evaluate and enhance your job security
  8. to stand out from the pack
  9. to dissipate tension and enjoy a better relationship with your boss
  10. to create more opportunities for discussing job fit with your boss

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

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  • Jazmine Abril

    Asking questions and receiving feedback are perhaps the most necessary part of a job, even my work study position. Without proper communication between yourself and supervisors, you cannot know what you are doing wrong or right. Proper communication can help to limit mistakes and unnecessary work on either side. I personally love to ask questions and make sure to always get feedback on something before I complete it.

    This mentality of needing proper communication has allowed me to maintain a good working relationship with my supervisor so that I know I can go to her for any work related problems and we can get it resolved together. I have received positive comments on my work style before that shows me and other employees that I am a hard worker that strives for excellence in all aspects of life, not just academics. It also helps me feel confident that I am completing tasks correctly and that I can use the style of work for future projects.

    I’m was very excited to read this post because communication is so important, especially in a work environment and more people should know the benefits of it.

  • Marijane Fasana

    After graduating high school, I have often gone back during summer and winter breaks to help out in the office and do whatever is needed. A lot of the jobs I did were not consistent every day jobs. Most often I was given different small projects everyday. This kind of work often left me needing to clarify exactly what needed to be done and how my boss needed it done. I asked a lot of questions and double checked to make sure I understood what my boss was expecting. Often, I felt uncomfortable and wondered if my many questions were a bit of an annoyance but after reading this I realize that this is a good quality. Now that I’m looking back, I remember my boss answering all my question with patience and clarity. He definitely appreciated when I completed projects just as he wanted them to be done.

  • Emma

    I think this is hands down one of the most important tasks to keep in mind when wanting to succeed in your career. Communication is key, and in a few of my past jobs I’ve learned this the hard way. Two months ago I took a summer job working as the full time front desk lady in a chiropractic office. The boss only checked in with me every two weeks regarding statistics on new patients numbers and other criteria. But, I was assigned to work on planning a 200-300 person event in one months time. I had asked my boss three times to meet for lunch, on my own time, to discuss the proper steps to take while starting to plan the event. My boss didn’t list this as a “top priority” on his list to say the least, so I went off on my own and began to plan the event because I was already a week into my time period and it needed to be done. As an employee, I realized I should’ve sat down in his office and demanded this meeting needed to take place because the planning was scattered, and the results weren’t what they were looking for, because I hadn’t been informed about what was to take place.

    One small meeting such as this ruined the job for me; the lack of communication grew to be worse, the management was confusing, and our statistics took a plunge. We lost our teamwork ethic, and there wasn’t a chance of getting it back. I have always been involved in a team: whether it be sports, at home with my family, friends, and always in my career. I learned that you need to take extensive notes, and reiterate yourself a couple times to make sure the conversation is clear and understood by everyone who’s involved.

    Your site does an excellent job of laying out the needs in a clear bullet point list. I’m going to print that list out and make sure I have it handy for my next job, because sadly these issues could’ve been prevented.

  • I have had one job for the past three years since i turned sixteen. It may not seem like a huge job or an important one, but it was to me at the time and still is. I work at Caribou Coffee as a team member, but am hopefully being trained up to be a shift supervisor this summer.

    For the first year of my job I was terrified to ask my boss for feedback. She gave it regularly and would sometimes be good, great or down right horrible. I never knew if i was meeting her expectations and never knew exactly what she was thinking about my work performance.

    After a year of working there I had my yearly review and sat down with my boss and talked about my pros and cons or my work performance. I was strangely surprised that it wasn’t bad and that I actually grew from the interview. I knew what to do more of, what not to do, and what she wanted from me.

    Ever sense I have been randomly been having talks with her about what she expects from me and it has been easier for me to do my job right at work. I take time talking to my boss as a valuable thing that will help me in the future, and possibly make me a better boss someday when I want to move up in the company.

  • Rhiannon C

    I believe feedback is an essential part of any job. Without this there might be issues that your boss has with you and you are unaware, and if you’re unaware you can’t fix it or improve. My last boss never gave me any feedback until it was time for annual reviews, then she would use this time to nitpick about everything, this caused much resentment. Now I have a wonderful new boss that makes it a habit to communicate and praise efforts, and she does a great job at communicating areas of improvement.

  • SY828

    Feedback has been crucial to my growth at my company. It has opened the communication lines between my manager and myself and created an honest level of understanding between us. In order to receive consistent feedback, I have incorporated personal review as an item for discussion in our weekly one-on-one meetings every Monday that we use primarily to debrief on meetings from the past week and discuss work items and projects to tackle for the upcoming week. By soliciting frequent feedback and asking questions to clarify areas of potential misunderstanding, I ensure that we’re always on the same page and that I’m constantly working towards the standard of work that he expects of me. This has not only strengthened our professional relationship but it has also created a level of trust and camaraderie between us that makes it much easier to approach my manager with questions and requests.

  • Timothy Antel II

    I had some problems with this kind of thing when I first started working. My first ever job was just part time at a near-by country club that was always busy during the summer so it was important to get things tasks done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I’d always work hard, but my boss would normally have to point something out to me, or let me know when I had to do something because I wasn’t used to either asking for feedback from him or start working on something before I was even asked.

    After a while I managed to get used to the way things operated and I was able to do the majority of work throughout the day without any oversight from my boss. By asking for advice before and after work I quickly found out the best ways to do various tasks and I was eventually able to anticipate what would be asked of me before anybody could even ask.

  • Laurier Carlston

    I was working for the Web Development and Marketing department of a corporation that happened to be my College and that was my first experience as a professional Web Developer. I found it very helpful to always ask for feedback from time to time to make sure I was producing the expected outcome. Every time that was not the case, my boss was always ready to make suggestions and provide very helpful feedback on time.

    This fact really helped both us to be very productive and trust each other until we reached a point where I was not required to attend the office every day. My boss could always email me the project and I could work remotely wherever I would like and complete the project on time. That was a great strategy beneficial to all of us.

  • trey

    the only way we can succeed in this economy today is by becoming an asset that way no matter the circumstances you would be too valuable to be replaced.

  • answanberg

    I had some trouble with this during my last job. I avoided asking how my boss thought I was doing because I thought it would make me appear insecure and unsure of my job performance. After a few months, I discovered that my boss did think that I was doing my job well but actually pointed out that I shouldn’t avoid asking questions about my job performance. Eventually, I did build a strong working relationship with my boss- strong enough that he called me after I had moved to beg me to come back to work for him again. Instead, he sent me a letter of recommendation to use for future jobs and wished me well.

  • Lessons Learned

    This reminds me of my previous boss after I had my child. He wouldn’t hire me before I had my baby but with steady communication, I was hired after 6 weeks. While working with him, he taught me that communication is the key to having a successful business and having an understanding amongst employees. It was great working for him and we all knew what was expected. Having an open-minded boss also played a key to how successful each one of us were. He listened to all feedback from employees, customers and other vendors and delegated duties based on our capabilities including promoting if we took initiative.

  • Julia Fee

    Questions are an absolute essential part of the learning process. Without feedback, you’re moving through assignments and projects with blinders on. You can see the general guidelines but it’s difficult to see the full picture.

    At work, in field experience, and in college I am regularly checking to be sure that I am doing the job correctly. This routine shows the people I’m working with that I am engaged and striving for excellence. It also helps me relax knowing that I am following steps properly. The worst feeling is getting to the last step of a project and realizing that you have done something wrong.

    I’m very glad there is literature on this out there. More people need to move past their fear of sounding dumb and start asking for feedback and guidance. If everyone was more aware of the tasks they are being asked to perform, work productivity and quality of work would rise.

  • I am a go getter but I worry if I am going to do the job good enough or even fit in with others. This is a great article to guide me in the right direction for my future work experiances with others. Playing softball in College, team work is very important. I feel that I will take that to my work experiance with me. Thank you for the knowladge to approch my boss or even my co workers.

  • Cydni Nicole

    This is definitely something that everyone should know and utilize in any job or position.

    I have always been a perfectionist and for whatever reason have always worked hard to avoid disappointing anyone (I’d much rather impress). I started my first job at the age of 14 and I’ll never forget how nervous I was. I asked question after question concerning what I was told to do prompting my boss to not only tell me what to do it, but how I should do it. Eager to learn and determined to do my best, I never asked the same question twice and in no time at all I had gained more respect and confidence in my position.

    Thirteen years later, I find myself encouraging new co-workers to ask for guidance or advice as often as they’d like. I enjoy my job as top server and trainer, and I am confident that my tell me everything I need to know so I can be flawless at what I do attitude has gotten me where I am now. I have not always been the most liked co-worker, but over time I realized that the ones who disliked me where the ones who didn’t have it in them to work as hard as me because I certainly set the bar high. I also realize that my work ethics and attitude has helped weave out the workers that lacked the desire or ability to keep up. I’m considered a valuable asset to my employer because I motivate everyone to do their best which results in great business and great service. I am more than anxious to see how far I can go and what can be accomplished with the Associates in Management that I’ve completed and the Bachelor’s in Accounting that I’m working on!!
    The idea and concept behind this website is amazing, and I will certainly book mark it so I can spread the word and reflect more on it in the future! Thanks! 🙂

  • Ana Guerra

    As I progress through my undergraduate career, I’ve been realizing how incredibly helpful it is to ask questions and how silly it is to stay seated guessing what the answers might be. It becomes serious when it affects the quality of your work. Not only does asking questions show that you’re interested, it also shows that you’re trying.

    As an art major, I will have to go through many critiques. It can be a stressful experience and a humbling one. One of my professors, who gave a critique last semester, was just as excited as I was with the finished product of one of my paintings It is good (and encouraging) to remember that my professor is there to assist me in improving. In the future, I know my boss would like me to succeed. I have very much to learn, asking questions is key.

  • I really connected with the truthfulness of this article. At age 16 I started my first job at a small local pet store run by two middle aged gentleman who prided themselves on a business based on customer service, a knowledgable staff, and a well kept store. We were encouraged to focus on these key points on a daily basis. What I quickly realized was that the best way to emphasize these factors and stand out from the other employees was to efficiently focus on each task that I was given, as well as ask for other tasks and feedback. Along the way my customer service skills improved, my knowledge of all things pet related grew, and my ability to dust and stock items quickly and neatly had set me apart from the rest. All this was accomplished by asking questions and listening and applying feedback. In the end this initiative payed off. After leaving for college I returned to home for winter break and was asked to work for a few weeks at the pet store as a cashier with the hourly pay grade of the store’s manager.

  • Kamala Glenn

    This reminds me of my very first job. I had just graduated from my first degree program and landed the dream job as an entry level forensic officer. The job demanded precision and adherence to standards that, to me, were new and daunting. I ensured that each time I processed a sample I recorded every thing that could possibly be recorded and checked with my supervisor each time. The other interns thought I was over the top but within six months I got promoted to junior DNA analyst and I was the only one in that department who had only an undergraduate degree.

  • nikialane

    I ask my boss questions all the time, such as “is this what you need from me, am i benefiting you by doing it this way, do you need anything else from me”. I feel like we communicate so well and i enjoy my job that much more because we are always on the same level.

  • Antonio Harris

    While I think these are very effective methods, I been in a place where the boss wants it his or her way and with doing so not managing very effective the team in general. So then heavy load of work falls down to the assistant managers and onto the employee’s. It seems that it has to be his way or hit the highway. Apparently his way is not the way corporate wants so there is tension in the work environment and it shouldn’t be like that. Sure everyone must play there part and doing what their job entails but when you have the store manager not even wanting or taking feedback then there lies a problem. I enjoy working in any environment that I choose, if I am not happy with something there is no need to keep dragging it is just the team morale that suffers a lot. I would have to agree with the key points of this article.

  • CsBetancis

    This is something I think about on a consistent basis. Especially having just recently started my first internship. I strive to perform to the best of my ability but I never know if it enough or if my boss is happy with my performance. He does not say much about any of his employees performances besides the occasional “thank you, I appreciate it”. I consistently ask questions about the task at hand so that I am sure not to make a mistake but once finished I am nervous to ask for an evaluation of said task. I always felt that it was somewhat inappropate to do so. After reading this it is comforting to know that it is in fact in my best interest to do so. This is something I will feel much more confident doing now. Thank you.

  • I definitely experienced this through interning in my Congressman’s office. Much of the work I was doing, even as an intern, needed to be done flawlessly for the Congressman’s agenda to flow smoothly. Asking frequent questions assured that I did not make errors that jeopardized the office, made my work stand out among the rest of the interns, and got me promoted to a higher post once it was clear that I could succeed at the tasks I was assigned.

  • In my position knowing where your job progress is at is imperative to your success. This is simply because processes are always changing and evolving to keep up with the market and it’s demand. I constantly seek peer and superior guidance so that I too may continue to evaluate my work methods.
    I feel it is important to not ‘stick’ with one method of approach, as this can lead to stagnant position at work, and an employee then is no longer cutting edge, or keeping up with change. It is important to embrace change within your company as well as yourself. Individuals should attain, retain, and maintain, new methods constantly. This makes for a streamlined and efficient workplace and ensure individual growth as well.

  • TamiJane

    I just recently started with a new company and feedback has been critical to my transition. i am in the same industry so I came in needing little training which made me a little nervous when I was put on my own. The feedback helped ensure me and point out ways that I could improve which was both beneficial to me and to my boss.

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  • Sighnershan

    I just started a new job in Human Resources and I have had to ask for feedback a lot lately. I have asked for feedback from numerous people. The people working around me who know what they are doing and from my supervisor. The best feedback I have recieved is from my direct supervisor. I agree with not having to schedule time. I got the most honest opinion from her when I asked out of the blue. I let her know right away that I wanted to be the best in my field and will do anything it took to get there. Becuase it was in an informal situation, neither of us felt threatened.  Being in human resources there is a lot that could go wrong. And that wouldn’t just affect me. I used every bit of feedback I got and now I am at the top of my game. chosen for top 75 websites for your career

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About the author


In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.