On joining a new team and working with a new boss I feel a need to hear from my boss something along the following lines - "you're doing good work" or "you're on the right track. Keep it up" or "you're doing XYZ but instead can you do abc?". Whatever it is, I need to hear some kind of feedback that tells me that he's fine with whatever work I'm doing or how I'm doing. Is this a reasonable expectation or not?

If yes, then how long is such kind of validation a normal expectation? Also, how do I deal with a boss who doesn't provide this validation / feedback / assurance? On asking him "how am I doing?" he responds with "okay" followed by something else which I should be doing. Or "good" followed by statements that don't make it sound good.

  • Absolutely that's a reasonable expectation. It is the mark of a good manager. Unfortunately, at least in the UK, many don't do it. – Luke Feb 10 '17 at 16:33

Usually each workplace and sometimes each individual boss has their own way of doing this. You should have no need to worry about it other than concentrating on doing your tasks well. There is no set way of approaching this for managers.

My own policy is if no one is complaining, then I'm probably ok, I don't need praise for doing what I'm paid to do, although it would be nice.

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Whatever it is, I need to hear some kind of feedback that tells me that he's fine with whatever work I'm doing or how I'm doing. Is this a reasonable expectation or not?

To clarify some of the other answers:

  • Expecting feedback on your work is definitely reasonable (and in my opinion should be the case in any decent workplace, at least to know if you are working in the right direction... but it is not always the case.)
  • Expecting praise, on the contrary, is not a reasonable expectation. Some bosses do it (it actually works as an amazing motivation for some people, and good managers know that), but most of the time it's not their main concern. If this is what you want to hear, just accept that it is not going to happen.

If it is constructing feedback that you need, and you feel that you are not getting it spontaneously from your boss, I suggest you address it in a direct, proactive and peaceful manner:

  1. Actively do by yourself whatever tracking you can do: carefully read e-mails, take written notes in meetings, etc, and regularly update a checklist of what you have done/still need to do/are unsure if you need to do, on each project you work on. A surprising amount of "self-feedback" can be done that way.
  2. Regularly ask "micro-feedback" from your boss. The least invasive way I've found to do that, is to ask direct and informed questions when you get the chance, e.g. "By the way, about project A, I've done tasks X and Y like we discussed and I'm planning to start on Z, is that still ok?" (optional, if you need this info: "is the timing still good?"). You'll notice that the previous point helps a lot in doing this efficiently, because if you ask targeted and precise questions this conversation can last 30 seconds and waste nobody's precious time. You can also include this sort of questions in a related e-mail, if you can't find a good moment to ask in person. Do not ask vague, unprepared questions like "what should I do know?": it will make you seem lost, and you are never going to get a good answer to that anyway.
  3. If some points still need to be clarified, or are too complex for a simple yes/no interaction, ask for a meeting with your boss and involved coworkers. Again, carefully prepare the meeting in order to get the answers you need.
  4. Ideally: set up scheduled meetings with your boss (weekly, monthly) to give updates on your work and decide of the next actions. This is not always an option - depending on everyone's schedule and most importantly on your boss' will/ability to take the time, but can be a great solution if possible. Still doesn't allow you to skip points 1. and 2. though!

Other answers/comments mentioned that any negative feedback would come out sooner or later, so behave on a "no news = no problem" basis. This is definitely true, but the key is to give your boss the opportunity to give you small negative feedback whenever they need to, and allow you to directly act on it, instead of letting all the small problems pile up in their head until one day they come at you with one big "everything is wrong with what you do". (I've been there, and believe me you do not want to be there. But I ended up finding a new job, which felt like the best thing ever happening to me! Maybe sometimes boss/employee work methods and needs are simply incompatible...)

In short: remember that not every employee has the same need for feedback, and not every boss gives the same spontaneous amount of it anyway. Target the precise questions on which you need feedback (some things you surely know you're doing well?) and constructively ask for that precise feedback, and provided you find the right time to ask, there is no reason why you should not get it! Good luck!

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  • Definitely agree on the 1-on-1 scheduled meetings! It's a great way to just have a bit of an informal chat on how you are doing, what can your manager do to help you do better, and address any other concerns no matter how big or small. – JayNCoke Feb 8 '17 at 16:12
  • It would be great if you could elaborate a little on the scheduled meetings with the boss. What kind of things do I talk about in the scheduled meetings? Whatever I did in the last 2 weeks? "So you know boss, I did X, then Y, and I ran into this issue but then I tried A, then I did Z, then I got a few interruptions and then I continued with these other tasks etc.,," – Mugen Feb 10 '17 at 5:20
  • @Mugen yes, the point would be to say "I've been doing X and Y and the problems were A and B but then we got to result C and now I'm planning on working on D if that's still the plan." Your boss can provide constructive comments, new ideas, or just confirm that you're doing what he wants. – Kerkyra Feb 10 '17 at 7:43
  • @Mugen but then it depends if you need technical feedback and ideas, or just validation that you're doing ok. In some workplaces you also have scheduled team meetings, where everyone briefly explains what they have been working on and it can be discussed if needed. The point is always to make sure that people are aware of what you're doing. If they know and don't have anything to say about it, this should be enough feedback. – Kerkyra Feb 10 '17 at 7:50

The need of validation could be put in 2 categories:

  • everyday validation for the same kind of basic task
  • mentorship : validation of gradually increasing diffilculty task

Feedback is normal in the workplace especially when you are new in order for you to adapt to your boss and coworkers ways of working.

A rule of thumb for validation could be :

  • First 2 month getting validation for basics task
  • First 2-6 month getting validation for unusual task with some medium risk/priority for the company
  • After 6 month or 1 year on the same position don't expect validation apart from an outstanding action (example : get a very important client to work with your company).

Moreover, validation is for intern, young worker (under 2 years in the field), new comers.

Instead of constantly asking your boss " hey boss do you think my work is awesome?" ; what you can do is to ask your boss for a weekly/monthly meeting to review your work, during these meetings he sould re-assure you and give you advice in how perform better.

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You should consider defining what he means by good and okay. For some people, this is all you're going to get out of them, so start interpreting it as you're doing great.

The key is to make sure you're getting constructive feedback and a valid response. Follow up with questions on how you could have done things differently. If your work is for customers or people in other departments, try to find out what there response is to your work.

Some bosses are better at this than others. Don't forget to thank your boss and let him how important these things are to you if you can ever get him to say it. He needs reinforcing too.

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