Giving your boss feedback can be a scary thing especially if the feedback is negative or as I call it an opportunity for growth. To prepare yourself for this task, first think of the feedback as an opportunity for growth for both you and your boss. If your boss is able to accept this feedback it is a chance for him or her to grow and a chance for you to practice and gain experience with giving feedback.
There are 3 key steps you should take when giving feedback to your boss.
- It is important that you prepare for this meeting mentally. If the feedback you are planning to deliver to your boss stems from a negative experience you had with him/her, take time to cool down. Remember, it is never productive to get into a tit for tat argument with your boss. When you meet with your boss, you want to remain calm and collected. Do not re-live the moment that created the feedback or raise your voice. Remain professional because in the long run it will benefit you and it will be something you can be proud of.
- Have concrete examples and do not generalize your statements.
- Speak from your perspective and how you feel.
- Prepare action items of what your boss can do to help fix the problem you are pointing out. For example, if your feedback is that your boss’s tone is harsh, provide example of an incident and what made the tone come off harsh, then provide a solution. If your boss is coming off harsh because him/her is too direct when they give an order, a potential solution could be to provide an explanation or the “why” prior to giving to the order. In addition, focus on what can be done to improve the relationship you and your boss have. Therefore, the solution can be specific to what works for you. Chances are you are not the only one with this feedback for your boss, but you may be the only one giving it and the solution you both agree to can help the entire team.
Be mindful that this meeting may not be a productive one. Your boss may not be open to the feedback and may go on the defense. Just know that if this occurs, prior to the meeting escalating downhill, suggest a break and clarify that your intentions was not to upset him/her. Do not be afraid to apologize. Remember, it takes two to tango.
The delivery of the feedback is crucial. If you start the meeting off on the wrong note (which would be either of you on the defensive), then it is extremely hard to recover from. Before you begin the meeting, make sure you are coming from a positive angle with no malicious intentions, as it will show up in your tone and body language. You can schedule a time with your boss or if they have an open door policy, show up and ask if it is a good time. Ask your boss how they are doing, then inform them that you would like to take a moment to discuss some concerns you have because you want to have a cohesive team as you recognize it takes everyone succeeding for the team to succeed. Ask your boss if they are open to such a conversation. Once your boss says yes – they have committed to the meeting and because they said yes, you’ve started on the right track of putting their mindset in a positive frame. By opening the meeting in such a manner, you have informed your boss that your intentions is for the good.
Next, transition to what your concerns are. Remember to speak from your perspective, how you feel, and how you have been impacted. Remain professional and apologize for any part you may have played. Then let your boss speak. Make any clarification that you find is necessary. If your boss says something that surprise you, good or bad, identify it and explain why you are surprised. Provide some of the solutions you prepared to the issue you identified and get a sense of how your boss feels.
Before you end the meeting, thank your boss for taking the time to meet with you and summarize any key take-a-ways from your perspective. Even if the meeting was not productive, do not walk away until you have at least thanked your boss
Have periodic check-in with your boss. The hope is that this conversation created a strong and positive relationship with your boss. Provide feedback to your boss on their progress, good or bad. If it’s good feedback, do not be shy to praise your boss and recognize it is never easy to change and your boss did. Make sure you give them credit. If it’s not so positive feedback, do not shy away from that feedback either, especially if you see that your boss is trying. When providing this follow-up feedback, start with something positive before you get into the area for improvement.
Giving and receiving feedback is a necessary dynamic in the workplace. It allows individuals, processes, and programs to evolve. Each of us have something to offer and areas to improve in. Do your part, be open to feedback, and never shy away from giving constructive feedback.