Why managers should ask for feedback

Uzma Barlaskar
4 min readMay 11, 2018

There is a management crisis in organizations. If you ask anyone why they are unhappy at work, most would talk about bad management. You hear stories about managers who don’t care about their reports, who aren’t being transparent, who are not setting the right direction for the team etc. As they say, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. So why is it hard to be a good manager ? I have a hypothesis. Despite all their good intentions, most managers do not know what their development areas are. What is surprising is that very few managers actually ask their direct reports how they could improve. How many managers say this in 1:1s — “Hey, how am I doing as your manager ?”

Organizations have review cycles where employees can provide feedback on their managers. But, it’s too little, too late. Continuous, timely feedback is much more likely to lead to change and impact, rather than a review cycle every 6 months. So, why should you ask for feedback from your reports

  1. You can’t fix what you don’t know. Period.Feedback helps you become a better manager. As the leader of the team, if you are not improving, then the entire team suffers.
  2. It shows that you are willing to be vulnerable, and willing to grow. Your direct reports will learn from your growth oriented mindset. This flows down through the chain. Your reports themselves will be more open to feedback and more vulnerable with their own teams. This makes the whole organization better.
  3. It prevents attrition. Most people move teams when they lose hope in the management. Asking for feedback shows you are willing to change and that you care about your impact on the people who report to you. Even if you are not the best manager you can be right now, just knowing that you are willing to improve, your team might give you a second chance

So, how do you gather feedback from your reports. The challenge with asking for feedback from reports is that there’s an inherent power imbalance. As a manager, you control their promotions, their reviews, how they are setup for success. So, most reports would be unlikely to give you constructive feedback. But it’s the constructive feedback that helps you grow the most. Here are some tips on how to help your reports open up.

Be vulnerable and create a safe space

Many managers ask for feedback in a roundabout manner. They’d say — “ do you need my help in any way?” However, you are unlikely to get clear feedback this way. You need to explicitly recognize the power imbalance and create a safe space for your report to be honest with you. Acknowledge that it can be hard to provide the feedback, but assure them that there will be no repercussion to sharing critical feedback. Talk about how you are trying to be better at your job and need their help to do so.

Be inquisitive about the feedback

Sometimes reports may not be able to articulate exactly the feedback they are trying to give you. They may be afraid, or not know how to phrase feedback appropriately. Especially the first few times, help them provide you feedback. Ask for more examples, ask for how it made them feel. Stick with them through the process. Show your intent to understand the feedback. You also have to be careful that while trying to understand the feedback that it doesn’t appear like you are grilling them or appearing defensive. If it helps, you can ask them to give you written feedback since that might help them frame it better.

Also, sometimes people may not even know what to expect from a manager. Share with them what’s expected of you. For example, at Facebook, there’s clear guidance around what is expected out of a manager. Managers are expected to support their reports, to hold them accountable, to provide enough context and transparency etc. As a manager you can share the rubric with your reports and ask how well you are performing against it.

Demonstrate change

Once you gather feedback, you have to demonstrate that you are changing your behavior. If there’s no change, then people will stop giving feedback. If you are up for it, you can even acknowledge the feedback and publicly commit to acting on it. This helps because it shows you take feedback seriously and would like to be held accountable for it.

Feedback is a gift, even from your direct reports!



Uzma Barlaskar

Growth @WhatsApp. PM @Facebook. Former Entrepreneur (CEO, PatternEQ). Stanford MBA. Still an engineer at heart . Find me on twitter: @uzmabarlaskar