Should You Give Your Manager Constructive Feedback?

By Stacey Rivers | Author | Blogger

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The performance review season is a great time to level set, close out the old and start with the new. Even if you were a rock star last year and overachieved on your goals, it starts all over and the company is now asking "What have you done for me lately?", (a throwback to the Janet Jackson 80's tune). You may need more from your manager this year if you will effectively deliver on goals, and this is when knowing how to give feedback can aid in your success. Giving feedback can be a touchy subject because there is a right and wrong way, and if not given correctly, you are taking a huge risk that may damage relationships. If are contemplating sharing your concerns, here are some things to consider before you get started.

So how do you give your manager feedback? Review the questions below BEFORE you walk into his office and share your thoughts about his management style.

  1. Have you been trained to give and receive feedback? 
  2. How will your feedback impact the relationship?  
  3. Is the feedback specific to you or the entire team? 
  4. Are you the right person to deliver the feedback? 
  5. Is he having personal or career challenges? 
  6. Is this the right time given the circumstances?
  7. Do you avoid pointing fingers at others? 
  8. What is your motivation for giving the feedback? 
  9. Do you have expectations that something will change? 
  10. If the situation does not improve, can you manage through it?

These questions may help you determine what can go well as a result of your courage, or horribly wrong and cause more damage than you anticipated. Being honest with yourself will aid in making the right decisions about your go-forward plan. Talk with a mentor or career coach regarding the questions above to get a professional opinion for your approach. If you are not discouraged and still want to give your manager feedback, here are some tips for getting started.

Establish a Working Relationship - Do you have a working relationship or is he just the person who gives you your assignment for the day? Some people are uncomfortable with talking about anything other than work, but since we are all people, there's more to us than just work. Figure out how to casually ask how was his weekend, if he's wearing new glasses, did he change the feng shui in his office, or anything else outside of the assignment but not too personal. The goal is to develop a casual conversation that will allow you both to gain a level of comfort with each other. Constructive feedback will be received through a positive lens when there is a rapport established.


Give Him Kudos - Another way to establish a rapport is to tell people what you genuinely value about them. Giving positive feedback is a great way to bring balance to the relationship. Have you given him positive feedback lately? Did you tell him what a great job he did with the Supply & Demand Report? Or the team presentation he delivered a week ago that gave you more insight into the purpose for the product? Managers are rarely given a pat on the back, and the higher you move up in the organization, the kudos become less because you are expected to deliver. Always try to give genuine praise before finding fault or sharing the "what's wrong now" report.


Ask For Feedback- This is a tactic that can open the door for you to give your feedback. Consider this role play to illustrate the point:


(Role Play This Scenario With A Trusted Colleague):

You knock on his door and ask if he has a few minutes. He says "Yes, come in". You make small talk for a minute or two (but not longer). You change the topic to talk about the assignment that you are currently working on and the challenge you're encountering. It's important to focus on the process and not the people, if possible. Most times employees are blamed for a bad process that they had nothing to do with creating. When he tells you what you should do to overcome the challenge, you say, "May I ask something of you as well?" (here comes your feedback). He will look at you intrigued and say, "Yes of course". You say (respectfully), "Can you change your message to the team? It seems that people have misunderstood and now we are going down the wrong path". What comes next should be a candid conversation about the issues and potential solutions. The goal is to make him understand his contribution to the problem and how you two can work together to avoid making the same mistake. This takes courage and humility, but should be a start in the right direction.

Offer Your Help - How do you acquire more work when you are trying to resolve an issue? Because you care enough to bring the concern to your manager's attention, this will set you apart from everyone else. Offering your help says you are not the bearer of bad news, but solution-oriented and committed to seeing it through to resolution. Employees who are adept at problem-solving are what every manager wants on their team.

Always check your motivation and your facts. The last thing you want is to be blind-sided by his response to your feedback. Make sure you ask questions and gather objective information for why something happened the way it did. In my experience, I have found that the issue was not intentional, and there were other reasons outside of my manager's control for what occurred. It's important to have a relationship where you feel comfortable giving your manager feedback, and while you are working here, you might as well invest in creating an environment worth coming to everyday. 



Stacey Rivers is the director of an executive portfolio management office at a large media company and a career advice blogger. In her day job she has responsibilities for defining, planning, and prioritizing initiatives to provide portfolio-level oversight for technology projects. After hours she blogs regularly on her site She has a Master of Science in Management with a focus on Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, and a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management. For more career advice, ideas, and suggestions, follow her on Twitter @staceyrivers13.

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