Here are 6 safe ways to give your manager feedback

You may think that giving feedback is the responsibility of the managers.

However, it is equally important for managers to receive feedback from their direct reports because it helps them improve their performance.

This article explores the 6 best tips on how to provide feedback to your manager. 

1. Know your manager

Feedback is effective only when the recipient is receptive to and open-minded about it.

Therefore, before you provide any feedback to your manager, you need to know what type of manager he is.

If your boss has a reputation for reacting negatively to feedback, or if you have a difficult relationship with him already, it may be better not to say anything. 

2. Speak during one-on-ones

One-on-ones are the best time to give your manager feedback.

This protects both your and your manager’s privacy. If, for example, during a group meeting, you feel like your manager could do something better, don’t point it out right away.

It would likely embarrass your manager and jeopardize her confidence in you. Instead, you should write it down in your notes and bring it up during your one-on-one.

Your manager will appreciate that you wait until the right time to speak. 

3. Direct constructive criticism at the issue, not at the person

It is very important to focus your feedback on what your manager did, rather than who your manager is.

Speaking about an isolated incident could be welcoming because it signals an opportunity to improve. Speaking about who your manager is, however, can be viewed as an attack on his personality. 

To help you direct your feedback on the issue on hand, you should include phrases like “When you did…” or “Your action on…” rather than “You are”. This way, you are focusing on the behaviour rather than the person. 

4. Be specific

Don’t provide generalizations. Rather, you should provide context and specific details to back up your claim. For example, if a project didn’t go well, don’t tell your boss that “you did a bad job”.

Instead, you want to focus on the specific items in the project that went wrong. For example, it could be that the division of responsibilities was not clear, the scope of the project was too big to manage, or there was a lack of technical expertise on the team.

Be as specific as you can on what exactly your manager (and the team) can improve on in the future.

“People react much, much better to specifics than to generalities,” says James Detert, Assistant Professor at the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. 

5. Remember to give positive feedback, too

Everybody has their unique strengths and shortcomings. Your manager is not an exception.

While you are pointing out areas that your manager can work on, don’t forget to mention a few things that she does well at.

It can help soften the tone and can help your manager become more receptive to your constructive criticism. 

6. Ask for feedback

If you provide feedback to your manager, I recommend that you ask for feedback as well. This action will help balance the situation because it will give your manager a chance to give you constructive criticism back.

Just like how you hope your manager should take your feedback, you should also be receptive to her feedback. Of course, you can ask for clarification and specific examples, but you should always be polite and respectful. 

Final Words

In my opinion, feedback is a gift. A great boss will be thankful for your feedback. A true leader embraces feedback.

However, before you decide to go ahead and offer constructive feedback to your manager, you should make sure that your manager is open-minded about it and that you have specific details to back up your claim. Last but not least, you should be polite and professional at all times.