Most employees would not even dream of giving their superiors feedback or suggestions. This unfortunate fact has a lot to do with insecurity and the misconception that those higher up in the corporate pecking order are, either by nature or by standing, infallible. However, nobody is perfect at any point in their career. Bosses, managers and team leaders, like their employees need to have feedback to identify areas where there is potential for improvement.

As such, a boss, manager or team leader may spend many years of his or her career unaware of these weaknesses and the impact they have on the tea, workforce or business in general. This is especially true if nobody from the lower ranks offers any kind of feedback to the boss or manager. Paradoxically, the senior person would in most cases be very receptive and grateful for diplomatically worded feedback from his or her employees.

The following five tips are designed as guidelines for providing constructive feedback to your boss or manager, without offending him or her and without compromising your own position:

1. Begin With What Is Already Working

The best way to ease your boss into a receptive frame of mind is to begin by stating the things he or she does well. You can offer overt appreciation on those fronts, thereby bringing down any possible ramparts of resistance. Flattery is a powerful tool, and it rarely fails. At the same time, make sure that you do not go overboard on praise. The idea is to leave your boss or manager feeling that your feedback has been fair as opposed to overly critical.

2. Know Your Boundaries

Your manager was promoted to his or her role by demonstrating the skills required to succeed in that role. For this reason, your feedback should focus more on aspects of the team or work assignments which you are qualified to discuss. It is not your place to criticize the team’s strategic direction or long-term planning. These are areas which are best addressed by your manager’s manager. Only raise these issues if you:

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a)  Have very serious concerns, and

b)  Can propose actionable solutions

3. Stay Non-Judgmental

While it can be difficult to provide an unbiased assessments of your manager’s performance, you need to do all you can to convey the impression that you are offering unbiased feedback. The idea is to project your interest in improving the teams performance, not your superiors. Ensure that your feedback does not have any elements of a personal complaint – focus on facts, not emotions.

4. Give Concrete Examples

In order to provide a context for the points you raise, provide examples that support your feedback. For example, rather than saying “You have had great ideas,” recount exactly how a particular idea saved the team time, money, etc. The use of facts will give your feedback to boss or manager greater weight.

5. Focus On The Future, Not The Past

Your manager will have made some mistakes along the way. Focusing on these mistakes, however, is not productive, as the past cannot be changed. It is more important to offer ideas and strategies that can make your team stronger in the future. Such feedback will be appreciated much more than a post-mortem of what has gone wrong, which your manager may also receive as criticism.

Jappreet Sethi

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