I often read (and sometime write) about the importance of giving good feedback.
The scenario is typically framed around how leaders should coach their employees, conduct performance reviews with their team members, etc.
True, these are important conversations. Improving your ability to deliver constructive feedback is key to growing and developing your people.
However, mastering the ability to provide 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.
Let’s face it. Giving feedback to your boss can be tough. It may comes with long-term consequences. It can even be career limiting, perhaps ending.
Having been both leader and team member throughout my career, I have been on both sides of the ‘giving the boss feedback’ conversation. Here are 7 keys that I have picked up along the way about effectively giving feedback to your boss.
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.
My hope is that these keys might help you deliver a message in a way that is well received.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a sought after writer, speaker, and global leadership consultant. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.