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Give My Manager Feedback? Are You Serious?

You re-read the email from HR in disbelief: “As part of this year’s performance appraisal process, employees will be asked to evaluate their managers.” As if performance reviews weren’t painful enough; hiding out under your desk sounds more comfortable than giving your boss feedback.

Regardless of how you — or your manager — feel about this new process, you’re both expected to comply. So crawl out from under your desk and get underneath your fear. Better start identifying your assumptions and planning a strategy:


  • My manager’s not open to my feedback. It’s hard to know if your input is welcome, since the directive came from HR and not the manager himself. Ideally, your manager would initiate the request and create an environment of safety for your discussion. Absent his doing so, it’s up to you to determine his receptiveness. Ask your manager how he’d prefer to receive your comments. If you sense disengagement, peppering him with constructive feedback will fall on deaf ears or may even be turned against you. Better to play it safe and stick with positive statements. If your manager genuinely supports the process, ask him where he’d like you to focus your feedback.

Is there an area of development he’s working to improve?
Was there a past project he was involved in that could benefit from your input?
Knowing specifically what type of feedback your boss is looking for will help you frame your response in a way that resonates well when delivered.

It’s not my role to coach my manager. True, your manager’s boss is primarily responsible for her development. But for organizations using a 360-degree feedback process, gaining a full spectrum of performance insight typically includes direct reports. So now that you’re involved, be sure you understand how the process works:

  • Will you be asked to complete a manager assessment form?
  • Will your responses be open or confidential?
  • Will the feedback be delivered at a skip level or directly to your manager?
  • Should you expect to have a face-to-face meeting with your manager to present or review your feedback?

Once you have a handle on the process, follow it:

  • Answer questions honestly and professionally.
  • Focus responses on your own perceptions and avoid acting as a spokesperson for others.
  • Use specific examples of performance.
  • Provide recommendations for improvement if requested, but avoid telling your boss how to do her job.
  • Your feedback, when combined with others, will help your manager to develop and improve her leadership skills, which ultimately benefits you.
  • Why does my feedback matter, anyway? In short, because it’s in your best interest to tell your manager how you want to “be managed.” Your manager plays a central role in the company’s performance management process. Beyond just reviewing the performance of his direct reports, he’s also expected to understand the unique motivational triggers of everyone on his team:

What do employees expect from him as a manager?

  • How does each employee prefer to receive coaching and direction?
  • How much oversight does the employee need and how can they best be challenged?

By collaboratively participating in an exchange of feedback, you’re improving your chances for a successful and supportive working relationship between you and your manager.

As with any new process, start by getting answers to your questions and understanding the process. You’ll alleviate your fears and be in a better position to focus on feedback that benefits your manager and, ultimately, you.