How to Give Feedback to Your Boss

Megan Thompson · May 12, 2021

Performance reviews have traditionally focused on the employee, not on how they are managed. But the new age of giving feedback has arrived and it’s no longer a one-way street. Now it is time for you to learn how to give feedback to your boss and tell them exactly what you think of them!

We are in the bright new age of self-reflective performance reviews, where employees are being given the opportunity to give more extensive feedback, not only about themselves, but also about the organisation and the people who manage them.

It sounds liberating, even a tad revolutionary! But, in the real world, how easy is it actually for employees to give feedback to those in charge?

Telling your boss exactly how you feel can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you don’t have good rapport. Fragile egos and miscommunication can make this a difficult path to tread. But organisations are recognising the need for better communication and are encouraging learning between managers and employees. This two-way dialogue opens up a communication channel that is beneficial to both parties and it helps to build a culture of trust.

The importance of employee to boss feedback

There are thousands of articles and guides on how managers should give feedback and evaluation to employees. But when it comes to employees giving feedback to managers, the subject is completely overlooked.

giving feedback to managerBut for a team to function well, managers need feedback as much as employees do. And who better to do this than those who work with managers every single day – employees have much more insight into their manager than someone working remotely in the senior management team.

Every manager has their own style, but not all employees benefit from being managed in the same way. Without employee feedback, there will always be under-performing members in a team. Not everyone will be 100% happy all of the time. A good manager would want to know about this so they can fix it.

Research by Gallup found that units with managers who received feedback on their strengths showed 8.9% greater profitability relative to units in which the manager received no feedback.

Regular employee feedback to managers:

  • Improves culture
  • Creates a growth mindset
  • Improves staff retention
  • Boosts engagement and productivity

How to give feedback to your boss

Giving your boss feedback will likely feel a bit unnerving at first. But once a routine of sharing feedback is established, it will provide your manager with valuable information that benefits both of you.

However good your relationship with your manager, some people find it difficult to take feedback and will see it as a personal attack.

There are, however, some good habits to adopt when you are giving feedback to your boss that should help to mitigate a negative reaction.

  • Write it down before you give feedback, practise what you are going to say and imagine being in your boss’s shoes
  • Be specific and avoid generalisations
  • Explain the behaviour in detail and describe the impact
  • Be authentic
  • Be kind to yourself (what you have to say is important)
  • Show compassion for your boss
  • Ask questions
  • Listen to your managers response
  • You can be silent if your manager responds negatively
  • Stay calm and keep emotion out of it
  • Use examples and make suggestions for improvements
  • Remember to say something your manager has done well
  • Be prepared to be proved wrong
  • Always thank your manager for listening
  • Always follow-up

feedback for manager from employeeCommon feedback mistakes

Meaningful feedback can really cement relationships in the workplace but giving feedback to your boss isn’t always easy. Delivering feedback in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, could cause hurt and upset. Here are some of the common mistakes that employees should avoid when giving feedback to managers.

Making it personal: The first rule in giving feedback is that it should be constructive. The whole point of feedback is to build someone up, not knock them down. Making feedback personal is the biggest no-no. It’s going to ruin your relationship if you bawl at someone that they are incompetent or make fun of something they have done.

Sugar coating: Another common mistake is sugar coating feedback to protect someone’s feelings. Fear of reprisals can make it hard to give honest and open feedback. But sugar coating or dampening down the issue won’t affect change.

Time and place: Where and when you give feedback to your boss are important considerations – giving feedback to your manager in a team meeting, for example, isn’t an appropriate setting, especially if your feedback could be perceived as negative. Remember, this isn’t about shaming someone, it’s about learning how to work together better. Never give feedback in an email or social channel.

Guessing motives: Don’t try and guess the motives behind your managers behaviour – if you are giving feedback, keep it to facts that you know – you’re not their psychologist and making assumptions could be deeply insulting.

Delaying: Never postpone giving feedback. While it can be tough to get the timing right to relay feedback, putting it off will water down the issue and small but important details may be forgotten.

WeThrive makes feedback a regular routine

Creating a culture of feedback isn’t easy. That’s where WeThrive can help. Our employee experience platform enables organisations to grow a culture of listening and learning and ensures that every voice in your business matters. We also help businesses turn insights into actions, so everyone in the organisation can experience the benefits of feedback, develop and grow.

Why not try the survey for yourself (it’s free!)