We all know the value of feedback in the workplace. It can help you to improve your performance, to reassure you that you are on the right track, and to stop you from making serious errors. But can you give feedback to managers?
This is the kind of feedback we’re all used to getting from our bosses at some point. But, flip it around. What if your boss was the one who needed feedback? What if they were about to make a big mistake and you knew… would you tell them?
I would – but that’s because I work somewhere where bosses encourage upwards feedback. But, there have definitely been times in my career – in other jobs with other, less agreeable managers – where I would have just kept quiet. Mainly for fear that I’d be shouted at, ignored or – worse – sacked.
Keeping Quiet Doesn’t Work
The thing is, keeping quiet doesn’t work! If something’s bothering you at work and you can’t talk to your boss about it… it’s simply not going to get fixed. So the likelihood is that you’ll become unhappy, your performance may suffer, you may even end up quitting.
I’ve certainly been down this route myself. I once had a job where I was really unhappy. The boss seemed uninterested and barely spoke to me. I was given very little guidance and often had very little work to do.
The worst thing was that the work was secretarial – filing, making teas and taking minutes — rather than the interesting editorial jobs I was promised would be part of the job.
Instead of raising these concerns though, I stayed quiet. My unhappiness grew. I went home to my partner at the end of the day and moaned about my job. He told me to bring it up with my boss. But I couldn’t. I just didn’t have the confidence.
Giving Feedback to Managers – Before Your Exit Interview
So I found a new job and handed in my notice! It wasn’t until the exit interview that I “came clean.”
My boss seemed disappointed, and surprised. He said he was pleased with my work and wanted to understand more about why I wanted to go. I told him that I felt under-challenged by the work I had been given, and that there was a lack of communication that made it difficult to talk about things openly.
I could see that he was shocked. He clearly thought everything had been going fine. But, he thanked me for my feedback. And we parted ways.
Perhaps if I’d had the confidence to give feedback earlier, things would have changed and I would have given the job more of a chance. But, giving feedback – particularly to a boss – is a skill that needs developing, and sometimes that only comes with time and experience.
Your Top Tips for Giving Feedback to Managers
We wanted to know how you approached giving feedback to managers, and it seems not all of you struggled with confidence like me.
According to a recent poll we ran on Twitter, 66.7 percent of you said you would feel confident giving your boss feedback. Similarly, on Facebook, 62.3 percent of you were happy to give feedback to managers.
Some of you delved deep and came up with some great tips on how to give feedback to managers:
Don’t Get Personal
Several people pointed out the importance of staying professional when giving feedback.
As Facebook friend, Raghav Kandakur explained, “It’s about being inclusive, professional, and accepting of equality among team members, without holding any grudges. One more important thing is starting every day with a fresh mindset without carrying any past baggage.”
LinkedIn follower Jotham C. agreed, “Avoid favoritism, [keep your] office politics-free.”
Leading positive psychologist Margaret H. Greenberg, who’s written extensively on the subject of positive psychology and leadership, also joined the conversation on LinkedIn by warning against the spread of negative emotions in the workplace.
She commented, “Germs and colds aren’t the only things we spread in the workplace. Our emotions, both positive and negative, are just as contagious and can either boost or bust productivity. Research has also found that a boss’s emotions are even more contagious than employees’.”
Mind Tools’ Club and corporate users can listen to our exclusive interview with Margeret Greenberg regarding positive psychology and leadership here.
Bosses Need to Listen and Be Empathic
Many of you suggested that bosses need to be open and understanding when they receive feedback from team members. LinkedIn follower, Konesh. A explained, “Listen… Listen. Be empathic.” Similarly, Shaba Shams commented, “Encourage empathy.”
Not all of you, however, agreed. Over on Facebook a brouhaha was brewing between two of our followers. Oedhel Setran kicked off the debate by warning against giving people too much empathy.
He said, “Being understanding doesn’t mean you have to be enabling. Stop accepting excuses from employees who aren’t pulling their own weight. Too often managers err on the side of understanding than the side of standards. They believe it will instill loyalty, but all it’s doing is upsetting the workhorses who are left picking up the slack.”
Fellow Facebook friend, Greg Schmierer, however, pointed out that this may cause managers to miss out on opportunities to help team members who are struggling.
As he explained, “… sometimes there are extenuating circumstances in the employee’s personal life that are causing him to act a certain way at work. First, the manager needs to give the employee the benefit of the doubt about the employee’s behavior, unless the employee is showing violent tendencies.
“The manager needs to be a problem solver. He can’t know what each of his employees [is] thinking. The manager’s role is to get the best performance from his team for his company. This means getting to the root cause of an employee’s behavior. Once found, they need to work together in a positive environment to help the employee overcome his problems.”
Oedhel, however, thought this approach could be seen as “hand-holding” and that, instead, team members should be able to “self-correct.”
Sticking to his guns, Greg highlighted that often people aren’t able to “… self-correct because they don’t know how.” Instead, he explained that, “It takes a manager with good listening skills and empathy in order to find out what’s going on.” Though he conceded that, “If the employee can’t be corrected, then it would be time to think about letting the employee go.”
Be Open and Transparent
Openness and transparency were popular terms that many of you echoed when it came to giving feedback to managers. As LinkedIn follower Moayad Daboor clarified, “… be credible and honest.”
Similarly, Illidia Alexandre de Sousa commented, “… know that your boss has your interests in consideration, as well as always being the most transparent as possible when giving feedback, in order to truly help you improve.”
Twitter follower, Pam Kennett, also highlighted being open about your skills and where you need help, “I would share my strengths and weaknesses with them, and agree a plan as to how to best manage me.”
Do you have any tips on how to give feedback to managers? If so, join the debate and share your thoughts in the Comments section, below.