"My boss thinks that he's giving me feedback, but I haven't heard from him in two weeks."
Does this feel familiar? If you're a Millennial in the working world, there's a chance it does. We've certainly heard this over and over again from our clients – they're asking for feedback, or at least feel like they are, and aren't getting it – so I'm sure there's some of you reading this that are feeling this way too.
For better or worse, our generation is used to getting frequent feedback. Whether it's from our parents, teachers, coaches or friends, most of us have lived our entire life getting feedback on our schoolwork, athletics, classes to take, decisions to make. I don't think I would be the first one to say that, growing up, getting feedback meant I was doing well. The silent treatment, on the other hand? Well, that's when I knew I needed to get my crap together...
Now translate that to the business world. You're expected to perform at a high level, but – all of a sudden – that expectation comes with little to no regular input and feedback. It can be jarring.
Before you get frustrated, though, consider these five things when asking for feedback from your boss:
1. default to assuming best intentions
I start the list with this one, because I think it's the one that so many of us forget in the moment of frustration.
"My boss never calls me!"
"Why isn't she returning my emails– doesn't she know I need her input before I can move forward?!"
It's tough when you're used to frequent communication and you're not getting it. I get that. But consider this: your boss hired you for a reason. They thought you were talented and capable of doing the job. They want to see you succeed. If there's a lack of communication, it's most likely not because they have something out for you or that they're ignoring you on purpose.
Instead, it's probably because – in that moment – you aren't top-of-mind. Which brings me to #2...
2. You are far from their only priority
For many of you, you're reporting to a "middle manager" – maybe a regional sales manager or an account supervisor (someone who isn't entry-level, but also isn't senior management, a VP or C-Suite). You may not believe me – as a frustrated account executive, I had a hard time grasping it – but here's the facts: this middle manager job is one of the hardest in any organization.
Why? Because 1) they're still learning themselves (see the next entry on this list), 2) they're squeezed from above and below, and 3) they probably still have some of the responsibilities of your job.
That manager is responsible to their higher up's – division directors, VPs, CEOs, CFOs – who have high expectations about sales goals, margins, supply management, customer happiness, etc. They're also responsible for meeting all of your needs – providing feedback, answering questions, giving advice, setting targets and so on. As someone who was also in this management role, I can say from personal experience how hard it is to constantly feel like you're being pulled in two directions with demands on your attention and time.
Then, add to that the fact that many of these managers also still have customer lists or clients that they're responsible for on a daily basis. Very rarely is "managing others in the organization" their only responsibility.
So when you're wondering where your immediate feedback is – cut them some slack and default to #1.
3. They may not have been taught how to manage people
Someone's got "manager" or "supervisor" in their title, and yet no one's taught them how to "manage" or "supervise" people – crazy, right?! The sad fact is, many people who are promoted into a management role are promoted because they were good at their previous job (probably where you are now) and not necessarily because they had experience in managing a team. And, like it or not, organizations are notoriously terrible at teaching people how to manage other people.
Which means they're still trying to grow their own skills and, at the same time, they're trying to figure out how to help you grow yours. Consider this: how can you help them be a better manager or supervisor (instead of complaining about how much they suck at it)?
4. ask for the feedback you need
Especially if you've got a more experienced manager, they may have "cut their teeth" in an era where the only time they heard from the boss was when they f***ed something up. Otherwise, they figured it out as they went.
"You don't know what you don't know" may be how your manager is feeling. They're not calling you regularly to check in, because they think you're handling things fine. They're not riding along to visit customers, because they figure you've got it covered. They're not approving every piece of work before it goes to the client because you have good judgement. They figure they'll let you know if something isn't going well.
As we've already talked about, though, our experience as Millennials is a little different. So what can you do?
Ask for what you need.
If you need more regular check-in's, schedule a weekly 15-minute call. If you want them to ride with you to see a customer, ask when they're available and get the visit booked on the calendar. If you aren't confident with a piece of work going to the client, pull them aside and see if they can review it with you.
You can't expect them to read your mind. On the journey from surviving to thriving, frustration over not getting feedback is part of the Suffering phase and the ONLY way to overcome it is to do the Driving Effort – take responsibility for getting what you want and ask for it.
5. at the end of the day, only results count
You've followed steps 1-4 and you're still getting nowhere? Whether or not you're getting feedback from your boss, there will always be a constant source of real feedback from the universe – results.
- Did you hit your sales targets?
- Did your client buy the work?
- Did you bring in that new piece of business?
- Are you proud of your performance?
If you're positively contributing to your organization, bringing epic value and making forward progress, you should be confident in your abilities. And if anyone questions otherwise? You just show them your results.
Feedback is like water to Millennials – we crave it. And that's probably not going to change. But as long as there are different personalities, generations and expectation levels in the workplace, there will be disconnects between what we need and what we get.
Before getting pissed off every time your boss doesn't return a text, remember:
- Default to assuming best intentions – they probably aren't doing it out of spite
- You are far from their only priority – good or bad, you may just not be at the top of their list right now
- They may not be skilled in people management – help them learn
- Ask for the feedback you need – if you're not getting what you need to succeed, it's your responsibility to go after it
- Focus on results – they're the only real feedback that matters
If you're looking for more help asking for what you want, identifying clear goals and managing the expectations of those you work with, we've got two opportunities for you:
- Millennial Mastermind for Agribusiness – a training+coaching program aimed at high-potential Millennials to build greater clarity and certainty to achieve
- Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience – a training+coaching program to develop the relationship building mindset and skillset of a top seller
Remember – survival is dead. It's your time to thrive today. Go get it!