How to Give Feedback to Your Boss
It can be hard enough to give feedback to direct reports or team members. But to your boss? That’s a whole other headache. How do you strike the right balance between offering your honest opinion and knowing this person is, well, your boss? Read on for some ideas on how to give feedback in a way that will produce results—and will prove beneficial to all parties involved.
Make it one-on-one
Before sharing any feedback with your boss, be sure to request a one-on-one meeting. This will let them know you have something serious to talk about and will allow you the privacy you need to have a possibly difficult conversation.
Figure out your goals
Now that the meeting time is set, it’s time to figure out exactly what you want to accomplish in this meeting. Are you giving your boss feedback on their overall performance? On a specific meeting or project? This will determine how cautiously you’ll have to approach the situation.
Keep it neutral
Separate out your emotions from the feedback you want to give. While it can be hard to do, getting emotional will not help your case and will instead likely make your boss shut down. Practice taking deep, calming breaths and be sure to stick to the facts.
Bring specific examples
Before the meeting, jot down specific examples that highlight the feedback you’re wanting to give. Give concrete examples. This will help your boss see exactly what you’re saying. Vague anecdotes will only make it easier for them to explain your concerns away.
Be aware of body language
The time for the meeting has arrived. Be conscious of how your physical presence comes across. Fair or not, body language tells its own tale. That means no crossed arms, hunched shoulders, or raised voice. It can be helpful to practice in front of a mirror at home to make sure you aren’t subconsciously coming into the meeting contentiously.
While it may be intimidating to give feedback to your boss because of the lopsided power dynamic, it helps to start with the positive. Mention something that they did that really helped you or that you appreciated. This will set the meeting off on a positive tone.
Bring it back to you
The way you phrase things can be very important when giving feedback, so always remember to bring it back to what you need. Phrases like “It would help me if…” or “I’ve noticed a more positive outcome when…” help prevent your message from coming across as an attack.
Have a solution ready
Bosses (like employees) don’t like having another issue or task dumped on their laps. So walk into your meeting with a solution ready to go, whether that’s a definitive request or a suggested next step. This helps your boss see you more as a proactive problem solver.
Acknowledge there’s room for interpretation
Whatever your feedback may be, you don’t want your boss to take it as an attack on them personally. This is why it can be helpful to acknowledge that your observations come from your own personal point-of-view. That’s not to indicate that your opinions don’t matter—just that they are opinions and not a reflection on your boss as a good or bad person.
Now that you’ve given your boss feedback, go ahead and ask for theirs. This emphasizes that it’s a two-way street with open communication and dialogue happening on both sides. This move can go a long way in making sure your boss doesn’t feel attacked.
Anyone who has had any type of performance review can attest to how difficult it can be to receive feedbackgracefully. Just keep this in mind when offering some to your boss. Entering the meeting with tact and (perhaps most importantly) empathy can go a long way toward creating a relationship in which your boss truly values your input.