Giving feedback to the person who signs your paycheck can be scary. A good boss will be open and receptive to your suggestions, but an inexperienced or less-than-par boss may become defensive or upset.
Whether you have a good boss or a bad boss, you should be able to openly and honestly communicate your feedback. Here are a few tips to help the conversation go well.
1. Be honest.
The goal of this potentially awkward conversation is to help your boss improve, so don’t be afraid to be honest as long as you are coming from a place of authenticity. Voice your opinion directly without beating around the bush. Let her/him know what you don’t like, as well as why you don’t like it and how it makes you feel. Your boss likely has no idea that something has been bothering you.
The best way to start the conversation is to open with something like, “Would you be open to some feedback? This isn’t criticism. It is my observation.” By opening in this manner, you will (hopefully) dissolve any potential defenses that may stir within your boss.
2. Be professional.
It is essential that you remain professional throughout the conversation, even if your boss chooses not to. It can be tempting to let your emotions take the driver’s seat, but resist those urges. Remember the goal of the conversation. You aren’t trying to hurt your boss’s feelings or make them feel like a failure. Your feedback is instead meant to drive positive change.
Negative feedback is never easy to give or receive. Keep it brief, to the point, and remain the professional that you are. If you are experiencing high emotions, give it an hour or two before approaching your boss. Losing your cool or becoming emotional will defeat the purpose of the meeting.
3. Give feedback in person.
Emailing or texting negative feedback is never a good idea. Nonverbal communication is completely lost in the written word. With a touchy conversation, it is essential that it is done in person. Your boss may misread the email or accidentally read more into it than is actually there. She may completely miss the fact that you are trying to be constructive and professional.
While it might be easier to send an email, it is always the wrong move. Schedule a time with your boss or drop by and ask for a few moments of her time.
Also read: How to Deal with Imperfect Leaders
4. End on a positive note if possible.
Make it clear to your boss that you appreciate everything she does for you and your team. Let her know that you recognize that her role comes with its own challenges and that you really do want her to be even better at her job. You can even wrap up the conversation with a little chit-chat. Ask about her kids or favorite hobby. Let her know that you don’t hate her or even dislike her.
Ending on a positive note will help both of you feel better and preserve the relationship.
While it is never easy to give someone constructive feedback, it is especially tough when that person is your boss. Never let that stop you, though. Not only will giving feedback make you feel better about a sticky situation, it is your responsibility as an employee. Your boss won’t be able to improve if she has no idea what she is doing wrong.
–Melissa Ricker via Fairygodboss