Giving and receiving feedback in a professional context might seem a bit intimidating at first. If that feedback is aimed at your manager, it’s likely to be even more intimidating. How can you ensure that you’re not offending your manager while also giving them feedback intended to improve your relationship and their work?
Here are some steps to follow when giving your manager feedback.
Establish a positive relationship with your manager
One of the keys to giving feedback (in any context) is ensuring that you have a relationship with the person beforehand. Since feedback is meant to help the person on the receiving end, knowing them and their work is a key factor in being able to deliver the kind of thoughtful observations that will help them improve. In order to establish this relationship with your manager, it’s important to build trust by taking initiative in your role and by asking for feedback yourself and acting on it. This will go a long way toward showing your manager that you value the relationship and that you’re providing them with feedback designed to improve on an already positive working relationship.
Ask for permission to give feedback
Before giving your manager any feedback, it’s important to ensure that they’re receptive to it and that the timing is right. You can do this by asking them if you can share some thoughts on an existing project or if they are providing you with feedback on something and you’d like to expand the conversation, you can offer them some feedback in return.
The best way to ask for permission by framing the question as something that would be helpful to you as their employee. For example, when giving feedback related to a particular project, you can say something like, “What would be really helpful to me would be to have some concrete steps in place for this next phase.” This will show your manager that your feedback is ultimately related to delivering the best results possible and will help them understand how they can help you do that.
Depersonalize the feedback
Another key component of giving your manager feedback is to make it impersonal. Rather than saying something like, “I don’t like it when you do XYZ,” you can say something like, “Something that’s worked for me very well in the past with previous managers has been XYZ.” This will shift the focus away from anything personal and onto your professional relationship.
Write it out
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to say, it’s important to write it out and refine your delivery. This is a great way to ensure that your feedback is both effective and sensitively. After you have an initial draft, take another look at it and practice saying it as you would to your manager. If something doesn’t sound quite right, refine it and try again. By the second or third draft, you’ll likely have it just right and you’ll be ready to discuss it with your manager.
Although giving your manager feedback might seem a bit stressful, by focusing on how you can improve your working relationship and how you can help them help you, you’ll be able to deliver the kind of feedback that managers appreciate and that makes the whole team stronger.