What To Do When You Get *Crickets* Instead of Feedback at Work

Feedback. Please and Thank You.

Learning to take constructive criticism in the workplace is quite frankly, not easy to do.

It can be tricky to tell whether the criticism is about you and not your work, a way to throw shade, or the type of feedback that is going to take your performance and career to the next level. Once you’ve found the value in expecting and accepting the input of others, you can see that it can be rewarding. But, what happens when you aren’t getting any? 

Larry Cornett’s article “How to Handle a Boss Who Gives You Vague Feedback” featured in Fastcompany is a suggestion piece that gives you some insight into handling a boss who gives little to no actual feedback or insight into your work. 

You know the ones. They nod at you, they seem to be listening intently, and then when it’s time to give them the opening to provide their feedback, *crickets* or the proverbial, “this is good.”

As Cornett points out, “you can’t settle for ambiguity in your job requirements or fuzzy feedback on your performance. If you let it persist, it will slowly stall your personal development and career progress.” 

For years, I was under the impression that not hearing anything from my boss was a good thing. I actually worked very hard at avoiding the need for them to make suggestions or give me feedback. The “you have to work twice as hard and get half the recognition” speech manifests itself in all types of ways. Recognition isn’t always positive, so not recognizing me by giving me feedback was a plus in my book. 

BUT…

I later realized their lack of feedback plus my desire to avoid it was equally one thing; a stalled career…for me!

When you don’t receive feedback, you aren’t being equipped with the knowledge of how to challenge yourself or acquire the skills and habits that you need for the next level. 

The article offers nine suggestions on how to handle lackluster feedback. 

  1. Assess the impact
  2. Seek counsel from trusted sources
  3. Try to understand your boss’s motives
  4. Manage your managers
  5. Create a circle of advisors 
  6. Find a great mentor 
  7. Locate your champion 
  8. Create a career development plan 
  9. Be ready with backup plans 

Although I genuinely agree with the solutions, it also needs to be noted that for some Black Millennials, there may have to be some tweaks to the approach.

For example, your champion may not exist in the current office or company that you work for. Your champion may be part of your more extensive network at a company that you want to work for if you don’t see growth opportunities in your current company.

Your mentors may not all be in your field. As the most educated generation of Black folk, we are still 1st or few in a lot of spaces, so your mentor may be outside of your industry, but that’s OK! 

My two biggest takeaways from Cornett’s article was his suggestions to manage your manager and have a career development plan.

First, you need to know what it is that you want out of the job that you have. It’s OK not to know a specific job title that you want, but you should be able to identify the skills and knowledge that it’s going to take for your next level-up.

Are you getting them in your current role? If not, what would you need to do to fill in the gaps?

What’s your timeline?

What skills do you already have that you are possibly unaware of?

The more questions that you come up with, the better. 

You can now tailor those one-on-one conversations with your manager to get the feedback you deserve. My grandmother used to tell me, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” Seek out their feedback and hold them accountable for giving you constructive insight.

Ask them what they think you are doing well?

Ask them how to improve?

In fact, be upfront.

Ask them what would it take for you to get a promotion or to make a lateral move. 

Make sure the input and suggestions are re-capped in an email or even on your performance evaluations. These are the new, tangible metrics you can hold yourself accountable to, and you can ensure that your supervisor can assist you in meeting these metrics. You aren’t allowing your success to be measured by an arbitrary finish line. More importantly, you can be more intentional in the areas in which you invest your time, effort, and energy. 

My last bit of advice on this matter comes from one of the best supervisors I ever had, Aldrick Thomas. He told me that in life, I was going to have to learn how to change people or change people. It sounded profound at the time, but honestly, I didn’t have a clue what it meant.

Now, I get it.

If you start building out your career plan and seeking out the input you deserve and your career begins to move in the right direction, you did it! You were able to change someone. However, if you create a career plan, and your supervisor still doesn’t want to provide feedback for your growth, you need to change supervisors. Which more than likely means, changing jobs. (That’s that #9 on Cornett’s list.)

Be realistic in your choices as we are nearing the end of 2019.

It’s time for end-of-the-year evaluations. Promotions are on the horizon.

Stacks of bonus cash are ready to be snatched. Don’t let lackluster or even nonexistent feedback stall your career or your pockets from growing. 

Lesson: “Then B.I. said, “Hov, remind yourself: Nobody built like you, you designed yourself!” “I agree,” I said, “my one of a kind self.”~ Jay-Z, A Dream 

Written by Crystal Lynese

Crystal is an Assistant Professor of Communication where she teaches college courses in public speaking, human, interpersonal, and intercultural communication. She also teaches future communication professionals personal branding, education, and career strategies to help them launch careers after college graduation. She’s an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion and gives lectures and talks to promote creating equitable spaces. Her blog, The Emotional Tax, is dedicated to bringing awareness and eradicating the tax that people pay for their existence. 

In her spare time, she’s a self-proclaimed Blerd and lover of comic books, music, and true crime shows. On the weekends you can catch her at an art festival, farmer’s market, or scrolling with her dog through the city.

To connect, follow her on IG @crystalclearplans or connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/crystalwalker5/