Giving and receiving feedback is an essential factor for ensuring all-round progress, no matter which field of work you are in. As an employee, you will often have to give feedback to your managers to maintain a healthy work relationship.
Having to give your boss feedback might make you feel a little uneasy, as you would not want it to go wrong. You may have to voice your concerns in a team meeting or in a more formal situation where the organization uses employee reviews as appraisals for managers.
The first couple of questions that might pop into your mind are, “Should I take the risk and give them negative feedback?” or “Wait, is the manager open to receiving feedback from their team members?” The answer to both these question is yes.
Before we delve into how to go about giving your boss feedback, here is why honest feedback is important for maintaining a constructive relationship between managers and employees:
- Managers need to know how they can get better at their jobs.
- A manager’s performance depends on how effective their team makes them to be.
- Your feedback will help improve overall team performance.
- Manager feedback helps improve employee engagement.
Now that you know why sharing honest feedback is crucial, let us look at a few ways in which you can give your boss an honest, constructive feedback.
The dos and don’ts of giving your boss feedback
When your company asks you to give your boss feedback, it is called upward feedback.
1. Base your perspective on what other people say about your manager.
Ask yourself if this was an isolated situation, or whether you have a clouded perception of the issue. Is it possible that your boss was just having a bad day?
A good example for how you should phrase such feedback would be, "I’m happy to receive feedback, both negative or positive, but I would appreciate it if it were done privately and not in a high-stakes situation in the future.”
2. Go on a power trip.
Just because their performance review depends partially on your feedback, you don’t have the right to be inconsiderate. This feedback is meant to help improve your manager, how their team and, ergo, you perform, and how your manager could better align to the organizational objectives.
A good approach would be to say something along the lines of, "I appreciate the direction you give me. However, sometimes, I feel like I need some more freedom to work in my own way. I'd love to have more independence and ability to use my best judgment in some cases."
3. Focus only on negative feedback.
Talk about things that concern you, but don’t let that be your sole focus. Positive feedback can also help your manager know what is working well and figure out ways to enable your team to do good work.
Say something like, “I’ve enjoyed the amount of effort you put into employee recognition, it makes a huge difference to me and the team, thank you.”
1. Be honest, direct, and respectful.
Your goal should be making things better. Hence, if you want to convey issues that concern you, do that diplomatically.
For example, “I really like the idea you had for the project, and I think it is a great way to ensure on-time delivery. What do you think about breaking the project into four parts so that we have four different teams working towards the same goal?”
2. Be appreciative.
Try and incorporate what you appreciate about your manager before you move into what you would like to be changed.
For example, “Thank you for taking up the team’s suggestions. I think now that we’ve found a good balance, I wonder if it would be best to drop those two clients. They pay well, but they are extremely rude to the team.”
3. Offer solution-oriented feedback.
For example, “John, we are going to have a lot of issues meeting deadlines. There is no structure to our approach. I would like to suggest a structure for the team, but I wanted to get your input first.”
4. Ask for what you want, don’t demand it.
For example, “I really appreciate how John puts in the extra effort and double-checks all our work before submitting it; it helps the team save time and ensures we aren’t sending out shoddy work. Having said that, although I have learned a lot from John this past year, and I would like a little more autonomy in terms of the kind of work I do. Instead of taking the effort to scan through all our individual work, I think a weekly workshop focused on areas of improvement might be more effective.”
5. Consider the language and tone you use.
Let your manager know that you have carefully weighed your words.
For example, “After much consideration, I believe it is best for the entire organization that I state my issue plainly. While work pressure is mounting for all of us, I know that John bears the brunt of it. The best way to deal with this issue is to address it as a team, bear the weight of the pressure together and solve it together. Instead of raising our voices at each other, let us offer suggestions for improvement to each other.”
6. Express your issues and concerns about well-being openly.
For example, “John, I am worried that the work pressure is too much. Could you please talk to management and let them know that the entire team, including me, is finding it hard to perform under such pressure?”
The right time and place to give your boss feedback
There is a time and place for everything. You don’t have to wait until your manager’s performance review is up to share your feedback; you don’t even have to wait for them to ask. If you have issues that need to be addressed, or if you just want to ask them for something, let them know that you would like to talk to them privately and set a meeting time.
Continuous feedback geared towards self-improvement and overall improvement of the company is essential to any employee’s success and growth.
Tips to give feedback to your boss
Here are a few tips that will make for effective feedback conversations when it comes to your boss:
1. Be clear, don’t beat around the bush. Make sure your communication is to the point yet professional, address the relevant issues, and talk about your solutions for that specific issue.
2. Make an effort to follow up. If you have asked for some changes to be made, let your boss know that you expect a resolution or at least a response of some sort. That could be a response to your feedback or an action based on your feedback.
3. Say thank you. It is just as important as following up to check if they have followed up on the feedback you provided to acknowledge the changes that have come about because of that feedback.
4. Don’t wait for the next round of feedback to voice your concerns. If you have opened up a dialogue with your boss, use that opportunity to connect with them regularly. Provide feedback regularly, and also be open to receiving feedback regularly. This ensures that the back and forth conversation has substance and isn’t a one-way track.
5. Make your feedback a work-in-progress dialogue. Listen to their response, and ask questions. Once you’ve done this much, go a step further and let them know what you will do to play your part. This will encourage them to take accountability for the feedback you have provided.
Phrases for Upward Feedback
Here are a few phrases that could be used for upward feedback:
- Do you think there is a better way we could achieve the project goals? I am finding it tough to find the right angle.
- Thank you for taking the time to hear me out; it helps put me at ease.
- I appreciate you taking action on the feedback we discussed last time; my performance has improved, and so has the entire team.
- Could I make a suggestion that I think would help?
- I would like to talk about the workload. Do you think there is a better way to streamline our processes so we can be more effective?
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