How to Give Your Boss Negative Feedback

Mastering the ability to provide negative feedback down the organizational hierarchy can prove insufficient. Sometimes, we find ourselves compelled to give feedback in the other direction – not to our team members, but to our boss.

Harvard Business Review reports that “30% of feedback intervention efforts hurt performance.”  That’s certainly a problem if you are trying to give a team member or direct report feedback, but what if you are trying to give feedback to your boss?

Giving negative feedback to your boss can be tough. It may comes with long-term consequences. It can even be career limiting, perhaps ending.

If you are looking to provide your boss negative feedback, you will be well advised to put these seven considerations into practice.

1. Avoid public criticism.

Look for opportunities to discuss the issue one-on-one with your boss. Criticizing your boss in an open forum rarely ends well.

2. Declare your intent.

Don’t make your boss assume your intentions. Clearly state why you are sharing your thoughts and how you hope they are received.

3. Offer suggestions, not solely criticism.

Criticizing is easy. Trolls on the internet do it all day along. Provide suggestions or alternatives for your boss to consider.

4. Demonstrate loyalty.

Talk to your boss, not about your boss. Don’t host a meeting-after-the-meeting to tell others why your boss is wrong. Be loyal when he is and isn’t present.

5. Recognize that your boss has feelings too. 

Your boss’ ego could be closely connected to the idea you are addressing. Keep that in mind and treat her like you would like to be treated.

6. Speak up.

Failing to share your thoughts can be worse then poorly conveying them. Don’t sit by and watch your boss fail. Step up and speak up.

7. Be direct, but respectful.

When you do address the issue, don’t be cagey or coy. Explain in clear terms your concerns, but do so in a respectful tone and manner.

Giving your boss feedback can be tough. Some leaders are open to learning and listening – others are far less receptive. Use this tool to keep these ideas top of mind.


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