Feedback-seeking helps you base decisions on better information. By proactively seeking, analysing and using feedback from different information sources in the working environment, you can better orient your behaviour towards high performance and ultimately improve your personal effectiveness. But where can the best feedback be found? And how does feedback-seeking actually help your performance? Read on to find out more.

Feedback-seeking at work: where does feedback come from?

Most people associate feedback with the traditional method of asking another person for commentary on a specific area of performance: “what did you think of my presentation?” This is certainly one way to seek feedback at work, but it is one of many. Let’s explore some of the others.

Feedback from the self

This is an important source of feedback and can involve multiple dimensions, such as analysing how you respond to other people’s ideas, how your energy levels dip throughout the day, how tired you are after a certain amount of sleep and how you feel when faced with different tasks at work.

There are many opportunities here for feedback to improve performance. By better understanding how you respond to certain ideas, for example, you’re more able to spot where your biases blind your thinking and therefore how you can improve your decision-making.

Feedback from peers

What type of problems do your colleagues tend to seek your help with? This can be a good indication of your perceived skills and knowledge. Alternatively, who tends to gravitate towards you and who tends to be more reserved with you?

Ultimately, this last piece of feedback helps you understand who you work best with and why. This is important because the workplace is incredibly

diverse and we all need to be able to work well with different types of people, so learning your natural patterns can help.

Feedback from managers

Performance reviews are obviously good sources of feedback but there are many other areas. Comparing the closeness of managerial supervision on a range of delegated tasks can help you understand where your manager thinks you need development, which can open up a conversation about training or even just to make sure you’re both aligned.

Feedback from the environment

What’s the general mood in the office? Are employees stressed, quiet and tending to show signs of presenteeism? This, coupled with perceived poor external economic conditions, may suggest people feel their jobs are insecure. And what about senior leaders? If they seem relaxed, open to conversation and generally upbeat it may be the best time to raise your idea for a new value-add initiative in the workplace.

Feedback-seeking at work: what are the benefits?

Better individual adaptation

As Strobbeleier et al (2011) conclude, individuals that seek feedback at work are able to better adapt to their environment and become more effective in multiple domains, such as peer relationships, managing upwards and team building. In this way, feedback-seeking has the potential to ramp up your performance across the board.

For example, by actively analysing how your manager responds to your ideas and the overall framework they use to critique them, over time you can become better able to both develop ideas that fit into your manager’s worldview and also explain your own ideas using your manager’s language and reference points.

More innovative ideas

Innovation is rarely the endpoint of a logical process: rather it stems from external ideas that stimulate unconscious incubation over time. These external ideas do not reach your senses tagged with a light bulb: they must be recognised as useful and paired with existing knowledge.

How do we recognise ideas as useful? By actively seeking feedback, looking at the results and trying to find new information that helps us evolve the frameworks and biases through which we view the world. Feedback- seeking is always the first step: nothing drives innovation more than being curious about the world around you.

How can organisations encourage feedback-seeking at work?

The Strobbeleier et al study found that perceived organisational support for creativity was positively correlated to how often employees sought feedback to enhance their creative efforts. Creating a supportive environment that encourages self-improvement and a growth mindset is therefore important to increasing the frequency of feedback-seeking behaviours.

The authors also highlight the wider benefits of proactive and self-starting behaviour at work. Encouraging staff to ‘find their own way’ and adapt their ideas to their roles can encourage feedback-seeking behaviour and other routes to innovation that can benefit organisational performance. Job crafting helps map proactive behaviours to formal work tasks.

Finally, organisations must also be open to feedback themselves, specifically through multiple channels. Showing employees that the organisation takes a proactive and varied approach to feedback-seeking – and that improvements can and do stem from this openness – reinforces the idea that feedback-seeking has merit in the workplace.

Investors in People, published 12th February 2019 by Nickelle Neavin