Receiving employee feedback is vital for managers, but it’s also one of those things that can be hard to source. Most people aren’t very comfortable telling their boss what they really think, and often feel like it’s not their place to give feedback in the first place.
If you think your manager could be doing something better, it’s in everyone’s best interests to share your feedback. If you have something to say that will be constructive, then don’t be afraid to speak up and be honest about your observations.
Bridging the gap between having feedback to give and knowing how to give it can be hard, so here’s our top tips on how to give feedback to your manager:
Address it as soon as possible (but pick an appropriate time and place)
Unsolicited feedback, especially if it’s negative, can be hard for anyone to take and that includes managers! Providing your feedback in a private space is best, ideally when you’re having a one-on-one catch-up. Otherwise try to arrange a time to speak with your manager in private, send them a quick message asking to set up a time when you’re both free to talk.
Address the issue as soon as possible, letting too much time pass before speaking up can lessen the impact of your feedback. That being said, if it’s a sensitive issue you may want to allow some breathing room to let emotions settle before bringing it up with your manager. Use your best judgement and remember that your boss is a human too!
Talk in person (if you can)
If you have the option to, it’s always best to give feedback to your manager in person. While it may be tempting to send an email instead, be aware that tone is something that’s easily lost in written communication. Having the chance to sit down together to talk through the issue will likely be more productive than a message where tone and intent can be misconstrued.
Because it can be a scary or uncomfortable thing to do (depending on what you want to say of course), it’s still a good idea to prepare your thoughts in written form beforehand. This will help you clarify the points you want to make and help prepare for the conversation ahead.
Remember that no matter what your feedback is, chances are you don’t know the full story of what’s going on behind the scenes and the potential limitations your manager may face themselves. Before you approach them, try to take a wider view of the situation. Is the feedback about how the manager has handled something personally/ or the actions they took? Or is it on an issue that’s actually out of their control i.e. a company policy that they are having to follow and enforce. Either way it’ll still be important to talk through your concerns, but how you approach the conversation will make a big difference to how it’s received.
No matter what you have to say, do it with dignity and respect. The old saying “treat others the way you want to be treated” definitely applies here.
Consider solutions and come prepared
Giving your manager feedback is important, but what’s even more beneficial is also offering some solutions. While this may not always be an option for you depending on the situation, showing your manager that you’ve thought through the issue and considered all options demonstrates you’re acting in good faith.
If the feedback is directly related to how your manager interacts with you or others in the team, have a think about what approaches will work better or what communication style you’d prefer. Framing things as constructive rather than combative is always going to land better with your manager.
Consider the relationship
If you don’t have a trusting relationship with your boss and worry about how they’ll take your feedback, it’s understandable that you’ll be nervous about how to approach this situation. If it’s important (i.e. has implications for the rest of the team or organisation) and you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to your manager about it, consider going above them – either to their manager or HR. While it doesn’t feel nice to go behind someone’s back, the fact that you can’t speak directly to your manager about your concerns is something that needs to be raised regardless!
Getting comfortable with giving feedback to anyone, especially someone you’re reporting to, can feel a bit awkward, but it’s something that gets easier with experience. No matter what your role is, speaking up when you think something could be done better or isn’t working is always going to be beneficial to the organisation, and your place in it.
Kirsty and Nikki