Nine Tips To Give Feedback To Your Manager (And Ensure It’s Well-Received)

Many employees are familiar with receiving feedback from their managers. However, few are as familiar or comfortable with giving feedback to their managers. Whether it’s because, as an employee, you don’t feel like it’s your place to offer criticism or because you just aren’t sure how to go about doing it, approaching a superior with a critique can be a frightening prospect.

But with the right attitude and strategies at your disposal, you can make the feedback process less intimidating and even helpful—for you, your manager and your relationship. Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council each shared their best advice for how to offer feedback to your manager and do so in a way that will be well-received. Follow these tips to start building a more constructive culture at work.

1. Start With Positivity

The main hurdle is usually the power dynamic—employees feel like it’s not their place to critique their manager. But the same kind of techniques that work for giving feedback to employees (the compliment sandwich, filtering everything through a constructive lens, etc.) work for effectively giving feedback to managers. I recommend starting with some positive feedback first. Thank your manager when they do something you appreciate. It always feels good to be recognized, even when it comes from a subordinate. This positive recognition will help normalize the concept of you giving your manager feedback. When it comes time to offer more constructive criticism, always tie it back to your needs. Instead of, “You should do X,” say, “It would help me if we did X.” – Miles Jennings,

2. Be Prepared

As an employee, giving constructive (or critical) feedback to a supervisor can be daunting. But feedback can actually be helpful to employers and even unlock previously unseen roadblocks, so don’t be shy. To begin, as with any pitch or project, preparedness is key. Employees should come prepared with specific examples that support their feedback. It’s also highly recommended for the employee to have a clear “ask” or next step when possible. On the flip side, employers can increase the likelihood of this open dialogue occurring by creating consistent avenues for it that are nonjudgmental and seen as opportunities for development and growth. Some popular formats are 360 reviews and professional development chats. – Cooper Harris, Klickly

3. Use Specific, Concrete Examples

Above all else, be objective. It’s easy to come to your manager and say something like, “I don’t feel listened to,” but it’s hard for managers to know how to respond to this type of statement. In some cases, it may come across as an accusation, and without details to back it up, you may be brushed aside. Instead, use specific, concrete examples. Try saying: “In last week’s staff meeting, I made a suggestion, but you changed the subject. I didn’t feel that my suggestion was received or respected.” In this example, you’ve expressed your feelings, but tied those feelings to a specific incident and a particular action. If the manager receives feedback with this degree of specificity, it’s harder to dismiss. – Brian Greenberg, True Blue Life Insurance

4. Offer Solutions

When an employee has feedback or a suggestion to make, it’s helpful if they also come up with a potential solution for the issue before bringing up the problem. Creating an alternative or bringing up a solution actually helps the employer and doesn’t just leave them with another chore or task to manage. A little bit of proactivity can make you stand out and win your manager over. – Syed Balkhi |, WPBeginner

5. Consider Your Approach

When giving feedback to their managers, employees should consider their approach, including their tone, stance and other nonverbal cues. Your body language tells a story, and if you aren’t careful, you could accidentally come off as hostile or angry toward your manager, and you definitely don’t want that. Before initiating a conversation with them, check in with yourself and how you’re feeling. It’s important to ensure you aren’t in a bad mood, as this can cause you to become defensive and send the wrong message. As long as you can calmly express yourself, you’re sure to give valuable feedback that benefits your boss. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

6. Request A One-On-One Meeting

Usually this is done by the manager, but when an employee takes that step, several things are accomplished. First, the manager knows that there’s something on the mind of the employee. Second, they know that it’s important to them. Third, the manager should, by default, want to pay particular attention to what is said because the employee made the effort in the first place. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

7. Make It About Helping You Succeed

Every employee needs different guidance, and that’s normal. Managers often build their leadership on past experience (what’s worked, what hasn’t), and day to day with a zillion things going on, they often find it hard to develop that unique approach toward every employee they manage. So when it’s feedback time, an employee should articulate their ideas and thoughts in a human “ask” to the manager—“Help me succeed in my role.” Ask, “This is how I believe you could help me get there; what do you think?” This brings alive the desire to do well in both manager and employee and moves the focus away to something bigger than their business relationship, which is the overall success of the team and company. – Fabi Hubschmid, Markaaz

8. Write It Down

One way to give feedback to your manager is to write down and organize what you want to say. Once you have all your thoughts together, approach your boss and ask if they have a few minutes to talk. Because you put all your thoughts on paper first, you’ll have a much easier time delivering your honest feedback. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

9. Phrase It Like A Question

It helps to phrase the feedback as a question or a request for help. For example, if a workflow seems convoluted, then an employee could point out that they’re experiencing difficulties during a specific part of the workflow. This comes across as polite and shows that the employee is willing to learn. Sometimes, a workflow can appear unnecessarily complicated, but there’s a good reason for extra steps or a specific way of doing things. Asking for help or inquiring about why a thing is the way it is ensures that you don’t misspeak or make assumptions. You can bring up an issue and look good while doing so if you phrase the problem well. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

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