Learning & Development

How to Give Feedback to Your Manager

By Celia Daniels for RallyBright

March 5, 2020

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When you think about team performance, you might think about the way you and your colleagues interact. Even if you do think about how your manager jives with your team, you might not be thinking about how to give feedback to your manager. Right?

Well, why not? Your manager contributes just as much to the success of your team as you and your fellow team members do. As such, your manager’s just as likely to benefit from feedback as anyone else you work with.

Finding the right time and best way to present feedback to your manager can be challenging. How, then, can you open that door in the service of boosting your team’s performance?

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Develop a Strong Relationship

Teams don’t unify overnight. It takes time for everyone to find their stride and grow comfortable working together. This goes for your manager, too. With that in mind, don’t approach your manager with feedback if your relationship is superficial or still developing. Your manager should feel comfortable sharing his or her thoughts with you and should be able to trust that you have their best interests at heart. If your relationship with your supervisor is rocky at best, it may be better to let another one of your team members share feedback when the time is right.

Choose Your Time Wisely

If you’re in the right place to give feedback to your manager, you’ll need to set a specific time to talk with him or her about performance. By making an effort to present your feedback in a professional and individualized manner, you’ll keep morale around your office high while still encouraging your manager to grow.

Some of the best times to share feedback with your manager include:

  • During a one-on-one
  • During your year-end review
  • After a meeting
  • At the end of an extensive project

Try to avoid giving your manager feedback in public settings. On occasion, public conversations about your manager’s successes and failures can generate office unity. More often than not, though, the attention a public meeting generates will prevent your feedback from really being heard and considered.

Keep any Criticism in Perspective

Once you sit down with your manager, it’s best to present your feedback with your manager’s development in mind. These sessions, after all, aren’t for you to vent. They’re designed to ensure that your manager can overcome any obstacles they are unwittingly bumping up against.

With that in mind, present any constructive criticisms from your own perspective. Use language like, “I noticed that you behave this way when you’re stressed out,” or “the way you spoke to Jane Doe, to me, seemed like you were belittling her.” Remember that while you’re part of a team, you don’t speak for everyone in your office. Pair this framework with feedback that’s supported by identifiable events in the office, and you’ll provide your manager with a strong foundation for learning and growth.

Focus on One Issue at a Time

It can be tempting, upon getting your manager alone, to overwhelm them with feedback. Instead of pushing for quantity, instead use the time you have to discuss one in-office issue at a time. Take your one-on-one slowly. If your manager has any questions about your feedback, think carefully before you answer. If you feel as though you haven’t had enough time to go over everything that you’ve noticed, schedule another meeting for follow up.

Be Solution-Oriented

If you don’t have as much experience in a leadership position as your manager, it can be difficult to keep your feedback solution-oriented. That said, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try. Remind your manager, as you’re providing them with feedback, that you want them to succeed for the good of your team. The two of you can work together to find solutions to the problems you’ve identified – but you have to be the one to make that first move.

For example, instead of saying, “criticizing Jane Doe in the middle of our meeting made it seem like you were belittling her,” try, “if someone makes a mistake during a client presentation, it may be best to wait until after the presentation’s done to discuss their mistake with them.”

Keep it Professional

If you’re not careful, it’s easy for professional feedback to turn into personal criticism. Remember: you’re not meeting with your manager to discuss their faults outside of the office. Keep your feedback job-relevant. If you want to talk about something that happened outside of the office, you’ll need to arrange to have that meeting at another time. Instead, use your one-on-one to discuss work-related events and critiques only. This will keep your manager from feeling as though she’s being attacked and will give her a more specific avenue for improvement.

Give Your Manager Space

Once your one-on-one is done, give your manager some space. No matter how kind your feedback is, your supervisor is going to need time to mull over what you’ve said. She may feel defensive, angry or unsettled. By giving her space, you’ll help her come to her own conclusions about her behavior in the office. She’ll then be able to consider changes, accordingly.

It can be lonely at the top, and just like other team members, managers benefit from being part of a feedback loop. If you think your manager would benefit from your feedback, reach out and schedule a time to meet with her. Approach her with good intentions, and you’ll both come away from your meeting capable of serving your team better.

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