We’ve all heard the saying, “People don’t quit jobs, they quit their boss.” And it’s true. A Gallup survey revealed that 75 percent of professionals who recently resigned from a job cited their manager as the reason for their exit.
Enter upward feedback. This evaluation method allows the direct report to provide feedback to their manager. It requires a delicate approach but, when done correctly, improves leadership and employee engagement.
What is upward feedback?
Upward feedback is a performance appraisal method whereby employees provide feedback to their managers or supervisors.
This feedback can be positive or negative, but is generally focused on the manager's performance and how they can improve.
While it’s understandable that giving feedback to your immediate supervisor can be daunting, when done well, it can help your boss become better and improve your relationship with them.
Upward feedback can be an important tool for ensuring that managers are aware of the impact their actions have on employees, and can help to improve workplace morale and communication.
Here’s how Google does it
Google’s slogan is, ‘Don’t be evil.’ Their upward feedback process is one way to enable this. The company’s people operations team combines data analytics with management analysis to come up with a manifesto called, Eight Habits Of Highly Effective Google Managers. This includes things like being a good coach, taking a personal interest, and being a good communicator and listener.
Employees also have to rate their bosses via a quantitative survey. It includes 13 strongly disagree to strongly agree statements that cover their 8 goals. Examples of these statements are:
“My manager allows me growth opportunities to help me develop in my career.”
Then, they ask employees to answer two open-ended questions:
- What do you suggest your manager keep doing?
- What would you have your manager change?
This helps employees answer questions more subjectively.
Upward feedback benefits
A typical evaluation for a manager focuses on the performance of their department. They might receive some coaching on how they lead but the higher-ups mostly care about the quantifiable results their team members deliver.
Making upward feedback part of the manager’s evaluation has many benefits, including improving their team’s performance. Here's how you can encourage managers to ask for upward feedback.
Better manager performance
The best leaders genuinely care about being a good boss. They understand their management style impacts the experiences their direct reports have at work.
But even managers with the best intentions have flaws they’re not aware of. And the people who can help them understand where they can grow as a boss are the ones who work for them every day.
One of the most overlooked benefits of any type of performance review is its power to influence behavior. When people know they’ll be assessed on certain factors, they keep them in mind as they go about their work.
Involving direct reports in the review process encourages leaders to look inward and consider if they’re the type of boss they would want to work for. They think beyond results and strive to lead with empathy and awareness.
Improved team morale
Most unhappy professionals keep their grievances to themselves until they eventually decide to move onto the next opportunity. They feel sharing their thoughts about their manager will do more harm than good.
Giving them a medium to speak up—in a healthy and constructive manner—is an excellent way to improve morale. It shows your organization and their manager cares about them having a positive work experience.
Increased team performance
Employee satisfaction is a major driver of productivity. And how an employee feels about their job is highly dependent on their relationship with their manager.
How to encourage upward feedback
One of the best ways to encourage upward feedback is to make it a regular part of your management routine. Feedback should be an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time event. Build regular check-ins into your schedule so that you can regularly solicit and provide feedback.
Another way to encourage upward feedback is to be specific and actionable when giving feedback. Focus on providing specific suggestions for improvement that employees can act on. This will help them feel like their input is valued and that they are able to make a difference in the workplace.
Finally, be open to receiving feedback yourself. Asking for and being open to receiving feedback from your employees shows that you value their input and are willing to learn from them as well. This sets a good example for them and makes them more likely to provide honest feedback in the future.
Upward feedback: best practices
Upward feedback is one of the most important tools that managers can use to improve their team's performance. When done correctly, it can help identify areas where employees need improvement and provide valuable insights into how they can be better motivated and engaged. Here are some best practices for conducting upward feedback:
1. Make it a regular part of your management routine: Feedback should be an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time event. Build regular check-ins into your schedule so that you can regularly solicit and provide feedback.
2. Be specific and actionable: When giving feedback, always be clear and specific about what you're trying to say. Vague comments will only confuse and frustrate employees. Instead, focus on providing specific suggestions for improvement that employees can act on.
3. Avoid giving criticism that is personal: It's important to maintain a constructive and professional tone when giving feedback. Criticizing an employee's personal qualities or work habits is not productive and will only make them defensive.
4. Seek out multiple perspectives: To get a well-rounded view of an employee's performance, solicit feedback from a variety of people, including their direct reports, colleagues, and even customers or clients.
5. Be open to receiving feedback yourself: Remember that feedback is a two-way street. Asking for and being open to receiving feedback from your employees shows that you value their input and are willing to learn from them as well.
By following these best practices, you can ensure that your upward feedback process is effective and beneficial for both you and your employees.
Ways to gather honest feedback from employees
Here are 2 ways to ensure that the feedback you get is honest:
- Ask for examples
When they’re giving feedback, ask your employees to validate their statements via specific examples. Not only will this ensure that the feedback is more actionable, but it will also provide more context to the manager.
An example of this would be, if an employee claims that the manager is ‘great at breaking down complex problem statements and helping the team understand what is to be done better,’ these would be some great follow up questions:
- Can you describe a problem statement that I helped you understand better?
- What part of the problem statement was hard for you to comprehend?
- What could I have done better?
- Build a culture of ownership
Encourage your teams to feel like they have a stake in the success of the company. This entails:
- Finding better ways of doing things to help improve current practices.
- Making judgement calls about their work and that of others. Consequently, people give feedback when they think that certain processes need to be revamped.
- Not being afraid of failing. People can accept constructive criticism and change for the sake of the whole team.
Engaged employees go the extra mile because they know their hard work is appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed.
The purpose of performance reviews is to encourage employees to make strides in all areas of their jobs. When done correctly, upward feedback is an excellent way to help managers get even better at leading their teams. Other ways to reinvent performance reviews are by combining 1:1s, continous feedback, and 360s.
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