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I've been working for the same company for few years now and I've been promoted few times, my salary was also increased, so I don't have any complaints from financial/role perspective, as I think stuff are developing with a good temp.

However, on each feedback I receive, and every performance review I have, I always receive ONLY positive feedback and no constructive criticism, no improvement points, no areas for improvement - nothing. On each review I asked more than once for any recommendations, constructive thoughts, etc. and people always say they can't think of anything (I've switched managers and teams, so it's not even the same people on my reviews). I do agree with the positive comments about my performance and recognise my strengths. I've always had above-average performance in my previous jobs too. But I don't believe it's realistic to be said that there's nothing in a person's work that can be further improved - technical skills, soft skills, time management, list is endless. I have a list of 50 criteria to be assessed on in my review and I don't believe there's a person alive who can be "exceptional" in 10 of those, and "good performance, without comments/suggestions" on all of the remaining 40 of them. I know that this might seem like non-issue and like I'm just a crazy person to many people reading this, but this is important for me. I want to continuously improve myself and keep growing personally and professionally. Without being given a hint in which areas I should focus my attention, it's really hard to do so.

As I mentioned - I've raised the question more than once, and when the answer is always "nothing", I'm afraid keep pushing is just crossing the line with being too pushy. I've also raised the question in other occasions where feedback was discussed, and have tried to pop the question in informal conversations with my managers too since I've been working here.

My questions here are: is there any point of keep pushing to receive any constructive feedback, and how should I do this given that I already tried, but failed? Or should I just drop it and avoid potentially getting myself into trouble because of this? Also, if for a second we do accept there's nothing in the "con" side from their perspective, shouldn't this actually be an indication that I'm just not challenged in my current work and should consider switching to different role/company so I can keep developing my skills further?

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    50 assessment criteria?! how do people get anything done when they're assessing all the time? – HorusKol Apr 6 '18 at 0:22
  • You just do your job normally every day and don't think about all of the assessment criteria in everything you do? I mean it's a little hard on the review itself to go over all of those in details, but their existence doesn't affect your daily work. You just need to have read the standards and try not to go out of line ... and they're pretty standard stuff, it's just a very detailed break down of what you're actually supposed to do from various angles. – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 6:07
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    I'm more thinking about the poor person who has to document a meaningful assessment based on so many criteria - especially if they have to assess a team of people - this is probably why you're not getting the feedback you are looking for, they haven't got any time for that. – HorusKol Apr 6 '18 at 6:40
  • It's balanced. I mean different people asses different criteria and not all of them the same time - if it's a team member who is at the same level - you asses only points related to tech skills and team interaction, if it's your manager - his management skills only, etc. Same time teams are decomposed and kept small, meaning you don't have to fill all 50 and you don't have more than 5-6-7 people to give feedback for at any time. So I don't believe "I didn't have the time" is a valid reason, maybe there are cases of "I was too lazy to fill in the form in details" though. – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 7:06
  • I think you need to work on your self-calibration. There you go ;-) – Captain Emacs Apr 6 '18 at 22:43
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This is an unfortunate side-effect of a work culture that doesn't thrive on that constructive-criticism feedback loop. You probably aren't receiving this type of feedback, because the people who are reviewing you are not receiving feedback like this as well, nor are they comfortable with giving it. It sounds as if the company as a whole does reviews to satisfy the HR requirement, but no real review come as a result of it.

The first half of my career (10 years) was like this, I always got stellar reviews, and no negative feedback. Goals and constructive feedback were almost a joke to the employees in the fact they didn't do it seriously. I grew technically in my position, but the way I related to others was weak (I just didn't know it) I then switched jobs, and immediately I got some good constructive feedback. After I was done pouting about the first real feedback I received, I got to work fixing the problem, and keeping up to date with my manager on how he saw my progress. I realized I craved that type of feedback, and over the course of that job I grew tremendously, and asked my manager on many times if he had any more feedback to offer.

I say all this to say, it may be time to consider a job change. There are absolutely companies out there that take reviews seriously, and work out this type of feedback loop. Honestly, if you are looking for career growth, nothing helps more than to have a colleague in your field point out improvements you can make. If you interview, the questions you should definitely ask around are:

  • How will my work quality be measured?
  • Tell me a common feedback item you usually bring up on performance reviews?

You should be able to tell with those questions what type of feedback culture you are going to encounter at the company, and how the manager will approach feedback with you.

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    Thank you for your reply! It really got me thinking that while sitting at the same place, thinking and being told that I'm doing "more than great" job, the reality compared to the same role in many other places might be completely different and it might strike me once I decide to switch, if I stay at the same place for too long. Not that you can be "incredible" everywhere, but it's good to keep a competitive level on the job market. – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 6:02
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When I review or coach someone I usually ask,

What do you think has gone well.

What do you think you could have done differently/better given another chance

and how can you continue to deliver what went well while also changing what you would have done last time.

So with regards to receive feedback, if you are not getting it, coach yourself, where do YOU feel as if you could improve? How can you do that? and whats the resource needed?

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    Hello, @AdamT! Thank you for replying! I do value self-analyses and use it on daily basis, then try to follow my own improvement advises and plans. At the same time though, people can't be that objective when it comes to themselves, so I do seek external recommendations too and I find them important. – mpp Apr 5 '18 at 19:56
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there any point of keep pushing to receive any constructive feedback, and how should I do this given that I already tried, but failed?

Ask specific questions. Questions like:

  • "I have been focusing on my email communication the past quarter, do you feel it has been clear and easy to digest? What suggestions on how to better improve how I communicate via email?"
  • "Hey, that meeting we were just in, how do you think I did trying to communicate clearly/effectively?"
  • "We've been working together a while now, do you have any things I do which bother you?"
  • "Can I get feedback on the last we were part of? Did I come across as too direct? Too confusing?"

As tempting as it is to ask broad "give me feedback please" you will nearly never get this unless the giver is very good at feedback (and protip: most people aren't). Asking broad questions about performance results in "pretty good" nearly 100% of the time.

The above types of questions are even better when paired with prepping and goal setting. Telling someone such as your boss:

  • "Hey, I want to focus over the next month on writing more effective emails, I will be trying to ensure that they are easy to skim/parse"
  • "Hey boss, I want to become better at code reviews and am going to focus on X, Y, Z, can we setup time at the end of the to talk through this?"

and then following up on it after some time passes is 1000x more likely to get useful and actionable insights than asking a generic "do I communicate well?" question.

The goal here is making it easy for someone to give feedback by providing context for them. Is it as valuable as "give me all feedback you might have?" -- no. But you are far more likely to get useful feedback, even if it's over a small scope.

Don't forget to make it easy to give you feedback because if you react negatively, you will stop the feedback process entirely going forward.

  • Thank you for your answer! I find it helpful and I didn't think of giving pointers in that situation, tbh. I do believe that I receive criticism calmly, but will make sure to go try and work on that so I don't surprise myself when and if I have a real-life situation of receiving an actual one in this or next job. – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 5:54
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    @mpp I notice you've accepted the answer that basically says "you can't, give up, change jobs." I'll give some in-the-moment feedback now - the more you abdicate responsibility for things (such as making feedback easier to give and actively seeking it out vs expecting others will just give it to you) the more frustrated and discontent with your work interactions you will be. It's your choice if you work within that box or keep trying to find a box that fits you personally. It's far easier to change yourself than find that unicorn box. – enderland Apr 6 '18 at 14:20
  • @enerland, thank you for your feedback! I can’t explain how much I appreciate it!!! Accepting that answer, however doesn’t mean I’ve taken a decision to start seeking for another job. There’s also a comment on that answer which explains my chain of thoughts provoked by it, which, again, doesn’t mean I’ve made my mind on stopping contiously looking for any feedback I might get. Also, if I may ask - how did you reach the conclustion that I’m not opened to feedback? Please, understand me correctly here, as I’m not arguing whether I am or not, I’m just trying to understand ;) – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 19:07
  • @mpp the answer you "accepted" as the solution to the question you have basically says, "your company sucks. only way to fix it is to move on" and gives you nothing you can do in your current company to address your stated problem in your question. This suggests you are more interested in validation of "my situation sucks, right?" than "what can I do to receive more constructive feedback?" – enderland Apr 6 '18 at 20:49
  • I don’t necessarily read it this way, or at least I didn’t when I did for the first time. I mean... I’m actually looking for criticism here, aren’t I? Would I be the person to seek responsibility everywhere else, but in his own actions, not looking for other opinions and own responsibility in the case? ALL points of view are very important in every situation and there’s truth in all of them, no matter how contradictory they may appear. ;) Your comment is still based enterily on your read of the answer and not sure you even consider my comment on it and my reception of that perspective. – mpp Apr 6 '18 at 21:08

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