Many employees worry about giving feedback to a manager. However, feedback for anyone on the team, from leadership to the lowest man on the totem pole, can be a potent tool. When feedback is offered properly, it improves communication and trust among the team. Increased trust and communication lead to stronger bonds between management and their team.

Often, feedback gets ignored, or people refuse to give it out of fear. The conventional model of feedback is for the manager to evaluate the employees. However, in the modern work culture, it’s becoming more common for managers to solicit feedback from their employees about themselves and what they can do better.

Encourage Giving Feedback to A Manager

As an employee giving feedback to a manager, think of the kinds of input you appreciate. This is not the time to point out personality differences or be overly critical. Yes, you can voice concerns, but you should do so in a productive manner.

Best practices for management giving feedback to employees translate to an employee giving feedback to a manager. The following nine tips were initially created for managers and leaders who routinely provide feedback to employees. However, the same principles are useful for giving feedback to a manager.

Would You Want Unsolicited Advice? 

Approximately one-third of the workforce say the feedback they receive routinely is helpful. Why? Because, more often than not, it is unsolicited advice, which becomes a stressor for the person on the receiving end of the feedback.

As an employee presenting feedback to a manager, it’s even more important to only do so when it’s requested. If it hasn’t been requested directly, you must learn from them if they are open to receiving feedback. If so, when and how would it be appropriate to give them your input?

Taking this step indicates that you are respectful of your manager. When you are providing feedback from a place of respect, the manager is more likely to be receptive to your comments.

Managers, empower your workers. Give them the confidence to come to you and give you feedback even though you’re a manager. When they do provide you with input, listen and act upon their comments as much as possible.

The More Specific, the Better

Whether you are a manager or an employee giving feedback to a manager, you should make your comments as clear as possible. Offer feedback that is geared toward finding a solution to issues. General comments like, “You could do better,” aren’t productive. They can leave your recipient feeling confused and wondering exactly where they are lacking.

Be specific regarding what your manager could do differently to make work better for you. For example, “I would appreciate it if you would pay more attention to the communications in our meetings. I feel like other people routinely speak over me when I attempt to give my thoughts.”

Remember, no one always wants to hear negativity. When you see something the manager does well, tell them that, too. They will appreciate the appreciation.

Even Managers Deserve Empathy

Remember, managers are people, too. Just because they are in a position of leadership doesn’t mean they checked their humanity at the door. Think about how you would like to receive feedback if the situation were reversed.

When you approach someone from a place of empathy, you let them know two things. One, you recognize they are only human and not perfect. Two, you can relate to them on a human level.

Whether you understand all of their actions or not, you don’t have to in order to relate to them on a human level. You don’t even have to like their personality to be able to empathize with them and relate to them as a person.

Your Quarterly Review Isn’t the Time to Give Feedback to A Manager

When you’ve been pulled into the office for your own quarterly review, it is not the time to attempt to share your feedback with your manager. Unless, of course, they ask you a specific question that requires your honest response. The feedback that has the most impact is that which is given immediately following an event, project, or meeting. That is true regardless of whether you have positive comments or negative ones.

Another issue with saving feedback for your quarterly review is that your quarterly review is supposed to be about your performance. It’s inappropriate to turn your performance feedback around on management. Not only is it inappropriate, but also they could feel attacked by you, which could have negative consequences for you down the road.

Not to mention, if the issue you wish to discuss is an ongoing problem, the original problem could be completely forgotten before it’s even mentioned at a quarterly review session. You might consider requesting a weekly meeting with your manager so you can have a relaxed dialog about things you both could adjust.

Giving Feedback to A Manager Should Be Done Privately

If you feel the need to give criticism, it should never be done publicly. Criticizing someone in public only causes unnecessary embarrassment.

Some people prefer to hear praise in a private setting, too. If you are giving feedback to a manager, it’s probably best to either request a private meeting or submit it in writing. Providing written feedback gives you time to consider exactly what you want to say, and it also gives you a chance to read and edit comments as necessary.

Feedback can be uncomfortable for both the giver and the receiver. Whether you are a manager or an employee, you might consider moving your meeting to a more neutral, informal area. Meeting in an informal location can help you be more relaxed and feel less pressure.

Sandwiches Are for Lunch, Not Feedback

The goal of feedback is an improvement, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Hiding someone’s negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback doesn’t help make the negative information easier to take. Actually, using this method to present your feedback undermines what you have to say, and it can cause trust levels to deteriorate.

When you give feedback, be upfront and tactful. Transparency helps to build trust and improve communications.

A Discussion Is Better Than A Monologue

When you are giving feedback, even when you are giving feedback to a manager, it’s best to approach it as a conversation rather than a speech. No one likes to feel as though they are being lectured. When you are speaking to your manager, you will lose the necessary element of respect if you present your thoughts as a speech rather than a conversation.

No matter who you are presenting feedback, you should always give them the opportunity to respond and ask questions. Once you’ve reached the end of your discussion, you can move forward together to find a solution.

Performance and Personality Aren’t the Same Things

Bringing personality traits into the conversation only serves to make someone feel attacked. No matter who you are talking to, taking a jab at their character or personality is not an appropriate way to handle presenting feedback. Instead, it’s best to focus on performance and behaviors.

This is where you need to consider the kind of feedback you’d like to receive. You likely don’t want to hear something like, “Your ego is causing an issue.” Instead, “Please don’t talk over me in meetings. I feel like it undermines my presentations” is a better approach.

Follow-up to Keep the Conversation Going

When you give a manager feedback regarding your own performance, it’s a good idea to follow up to keep them abreast of your progress. Providing an honest, performance-based evaluation of yourself or anyone else can be quite difficult. You spend a lot of time thinking through your points before presenting them.

All that thought takes energy. If you’re going to make the effort, then don’t treat it like a one-and-done conversation. Instead, schedule a regular follow-up to your discussion. Gear your follow-up to progress as well as the difficulties you have experienced.

Above all, be honest with yourself and with your manager. Engage in an open dialogue that will help you pinpoint the areas that need more work or the areas where you need help. Ask questions that allow your discussion partner to assist you with evaluating your progress or lack thereof.

When you schedule a regular follow-up to a feedback session, it indicates that you value the other person’s opinion. It also indicates that you recognize your need for help through part of the process.

Final Thoughts

Giving a manager feedback, whether self-evaluation, peer evaluation, or management evaluation, can be a fear-inducing prospect. What if the recipient doesn’t want to hear what you have to say? What if your words are misconstrued?

Evaluation and feedback are crucial elements in any growth within the workplace. Various scenarios may play out in your mind. The one that is most important is the one where you grow and develop from the experience. Contact for assistance if you are considering ideas for improving your current process.

The tips provided here work for providing feedback no matter where you rest on the corporate ladder.