How to give feedback to your boss
I think we can all agree on one thing: giving and accepting feedback is an art form. It takes practice, mindfulness and tons of preparation. Yet, giving tough feedback is absolutely essential for growth in the workplace.
Delivering feedback to your boss can be intimidating. We hear you. But it doesn’t need to be a stressful exercise; it can open new dialogues that result in feeling seen and heard. Sound impossible? Au contraire! To help you get started, the Traction® Tools team has put together our best tips on having these conversations with your boss.
Know when (and when not) to give feedback
Choosing the right time and place to give feedback to your boss is crucial. For example, avoid shelling out negative feedback when surrounded by colleagues or peers as it’s not exactly conducive for starting a dialogue. Likewise, if you notice they’re in a bad mood (we’ve all been there), consider waiting a day or two before opening the conversation.
If you’re not sure when to give feedback, ask your manager to schedule a 1-on-1 meeting. The goal here is to make the time and place work with you, not against you. Remember: people are most likely to hear you out when they feel secure.
Deliver feedback face-to-face
Body language is a crucial part of communication. Without it, you might come across in the wrong way or misunderstand their reaction. While it’s tempting to hide behind a keyboard or a phone call, hard conversations need to happen when you can see each other.
This is doubly true when working from home. We know, we know—video chats can be awkward. But a face-to-face dialogue makes your feedback more meaningful, more believable and more impactful.
As empathetic people, we’re naturally inclined to soften the blow, especially when it’s negative. This could mean sugar-coating, beating around the bush or avoiding a topic altogether. While these methods keep us comfortable, they don’t lead to meaningful conversations. When giving feedback, be transparent about your experiences while maintaining your sense of empathy. We suggest making an outline to keep track of your points!
Don’t panic if they get defensive
No matter how carefully you communicate your feedback, there’s always a chance your boss will get defensive. It’s only natural, after all. If this happens, the worst thing you can do is match their defensiveness. Instead, be prepared to explain or reframe your feedback, and gently guide them to understanding. Before the meeting, ask yourself questions like:
- What am I seeing that my boss might not be?
- What are my boss’ priorities?
- What is my boss’ management style?
- How does my boss give me feedback?
Present solutions when you can
If your feedback is about a project or process, come prepared with solutions and ideas. This will show your boss that you’re not just giving criticism for the heck of it; you’re actually invested in making things better. If you’re comfortable with it, ask for feedback on your ideas. It’ll help put you back on equal footing, and can calm any defensiveness that might come up.
Side note: if you’re giving feedback related to your boss’ habits or personality, skip this step!
Bring it all together
- Make the time and place work for you
- Remain honest and understanding, even if it’s uncomfortable
- Be mindful of defensiveness
- Pay attention to body language
- Come prepared to fix the problem and be the progress-oriented powerhouse we know you are!