Soliciting feedback at work is integral to professional development, yet pursuing feedback is only weakly related to performance according to a study by Harvard Business School. In spite of employees consistently asking for guidance and taking different and creative approaches, employers struggle to give the feedback employees need. When supervisors give hasty or passive feedback, employees stop asking for it. Because what’s the point, right? Smart, self-aware employees will look for different mentors within the company or start applying for jobs to see if they can develop elsewhere.
Harvard Business School addresses this discrepancy by reviewing several studies, and determined which methods of seeking feedback were most effective for employees. How someone asks for guidance, down to the word choice, made a difference in the quality of feedback.
After reviewing six different studies, the world-renowned business school found that asking for “feedback” solicited ambivalent, passive input that was not future oriented. But if the employee asked for “advice” four of the six studies show they went on to focused improvement much more consistently than employees who asked for “feedback.” So just the simple word substitution made all the difference in the quality of the guidance they received, and helped the advice seeking-employee improve in the future.
They concluded that the advice seeking/feedback seeking process is an interpersonal one that often depends on the relationship between the employee and the employer, but taking a more interpersonal angle resulted in the actionable input employees are were seeking.