One of the criticisms that we hear repeatedly is that the millennial generation wants constant feedback. Frequently, an accompanying statement is that they can’t handle criticism. So what are they really looking for? Praise? Direction? Attention? Mentoring? Access? Clarity? Context? Validation? All of these? Something else?
While generalizing about any group is always dangerous, are there some commonalities that can be identified? We know that those in the younger workforce tend to be tech-savvy. They can find an answer or facts in a heartbeat. They also are extremely well connected.
Perhaps most importantly, they are used to constant feedback—from peers, parents, and professors. There has always been someone to text or ask for advice. When they enter the workforce, they may be expected to be more independent in their work and in their thinking. They may be assigned a project rather than a task. They are frequently good at tasks, but not always as good with big picture. They may not fully understand the context or the established process. As a result, the desire for feedback can be high.
But managers expect employees to be competent and independent workers. Most managers have a routine they follow with regard to delegation. Managers give the assignments. Staff do them.
If you find yourself struggling with the need for more feedback at work, how can you go about getting it without appearing insecure, or confused, or incapable?
Begin by trying to fully understand the context and parameters of the assignment. You might ask your boss if there is an example of a similar report or project that you could review. Ask if she can provide a bit of context for the assignment. Be certain you know the required timeline. Then start by preparing a project outline and a task list. Do the necessary research (you’re good at that). If some of your colleagues have similar assignments, talk with them about the process they are using and how they get feedback from the boss if needed.
What shouldn’t you do? First, don’t constantly ask your boss for input. When you have something of substance to discuss, make an appointment to do so. Don’t try to catch her in the hall to try and get approval or get your questions answered. When you do meet with her, be prepared. Have an agenda and a written list of questions. Preferably give her an advanced, but brief, written copy of your progress so far.
Be prepared for critical feedback—isn’t that what you are looking for? Don’t argue with your boss or try to convince her that the process she wants should be revised or that you have a better way of doing it. Do the project as she requested. When you have finished it, you might then make some suggestions about how future projects can be streamlined.
Feedback is often desirable and it can be useful, but constantly seeking it isn’t. Asking your boss for feedback too often begins to look like you are fishing for compliments, seeking praise, or vying for attention. You certainly don’t want her feedback to focus on any of those issues.