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For better or worse, employees are all too familiar with performance reviews by their superiors. It’s helpful to be reminded about punctuality and productivity every now and then. But what do you do when you need to give feedback to your boss or your manager? The task sounds daunting at first, after all, what happens if they get mad or if you come across as insensitive?

We’ll cover the best way to give constructive feedback to your manager in the best way, why you should provide feedback, and how it can lead to a healthier work environment.


First, start with writing down your reasons

Feedback is crucial for managers to grow. Without it, they’re prone to making the same mistakes. Ask yourself: “why should I give feedback?” Is it because nobody else on the team will say anything? Has a process been inefficient in yielding the right results? Or is it personal (in which case, you might consider keeping it to yourself)?

Whether it’s positive or negative, formulate the feedback you intend to give, as well as the intended response you’re looking for. You may despise being micromanaged, or perhaps you lack guidance in the workplace.


Evaluate your professional relationship

If you’re an intern or a new hire, your feedback will likely fall on deaf ears. Nobody wants to hear the new team member spout off about how the company can run better. But if you’ve developed a rapport with your manager, and you’ve built a sense of trust with one another, you’re in a better position to speak your mind.

Review your relationship with your manager. Do you have enough experience with the company to share honest feedback yet? If not, consider holding off for a better opportunity. Timing is everything.


Schedule a one-on-one meeting

You know what to say and you have had significant experience working with your manager. Now you need to find time during the day away from the rest of the team when there is some downtime. That way, you’ll have the full attention of your manager. You’ll also discourage other team members from joining the conversation and avoid putting your manager on the spot in front of others.

There’s no need to make it an hour long or have it in a conference room. Just schedule a quick 15-minute conversation. Keep it short and simple.


Be specific and honest

When the time comes to actually share your feedback, choose your words carefully. Understand that feedback can easily be taken as a personal attack if you don’t frame it in the right way. Harvard Business Review makes a great point: stick to your perspective. By framing it as “I noticed that you…” or something similar, you limit the feedback to your own personal experience.

Above all, come from a place of honesty and sincerity. Don’t embellish or exaggerate. Make it a point that you only care about each other’s growth, and your manager will be more receptive whether it’s a compliment or a criticism.


Prepare for backlash

Not everything may go your way. It’s possible that your boss may take criticism personally. If this happens, it’s vital that you bring the conversation back to the business and restate that it is not a personal issue. Focus on how the manager’s improved behavior can better benefit the business as a whole.

In any case, thank your manager for their time and end the conversation professionally and amicably. The more you remove yourself personally, the more credible you’ll sound and the less likely the manager will take it negatively.

So let’s review the 5 tips for tactfully giving feedback to your managers.

  1. Plan your response by writing it down
  2. Evaluate your relationship with your manager beforehand
  3. Schedule a one-on-one meeting
  4. Be specific and honest
  5. Stay professional

Giving honest feedback to someone you work with isn’t always easy, especially if it’s a person you work for. But for any successful company to grow and thrive, there needs to be a foundation of trust and honesty. Of course, there are times when criticism can feel personal and difficult to hear. But as long as it comes from a place of sincerity and positivity, constructive criticism can also be inspiring.

Companies with strong, well-defined company cultures can encourage more open dialogues between managers and employees. Read about our post on the importance of company culture here.

Read more weekly articles about business and entrepreneurship, whether you’re running a startup or work for an established corporation, at Novel Coworking.