Constructively Criticizing Your Boss
Whether a cubicle-bound peon or a high-flying CEO, the old adage holds that no one is perfect. However your boss may be affecting you or your team’s productivity, you may find it necessary to send some feedback his/her way to keep things running smoothly in the workplace. But that action is typically much easier said than done. Not only is there the fear of retaliation from above, but also of a developing reputation for complaining or rocking the boat. But there are some steps for making the process more positive and productive without the added negative consequences.
One of the most important considerations when deciding to force a point with your boss is necessity. The workplace has become a more and more opinionated space over the years, which has led to many a comment that should have been left unsaid—or at least delivered differently. Feedback is important for everyone to perform their job most efficiently, but the first thing to confirm before sharing your input is whether or not it is truly required. Take the long view and consider whether your comments will be more likely to help or hurt you and your boss in the future. Delivering only the feedback your boss needs to hear, and in a diplomatic way, is a key component of effectively criticizing your professional superior.
Presentation is also vital for effective feedback. To that end, you shouldn’t rely on your ability to improvise in a face-to-face confrontation. Instead, write down your thoughts to better control the flow and content of the conversation and to keep yourself from veering off track, becoming flustered, or saying things you will regret later. Just jot down some brief notes describing your primary concerns, critical issues, and any evidence to support your claims. And, most importantly, don’t deviate from your script once you’ve distilled it to the most relevant points.
It should go without saying, but when dealing with your boss you always want to remain composed and professional, even if he or she becomes agitated. Your boss probably isn’t expecting any criticism so pull him/her aside privately, schedule a time for discussion, and explain the general purpose of the chat. And once you get to the meeting, remember that this isn’t the time for an emotional unloading, but for constructive feedback aimed at improving overall productivity.
Finally, you may encounter a situation where your boss actually solicits feedback from your team or you, in particular. But you can’t necessarily take these invitations at face value. Your boss may have different intentions, such as a roundabout way of getting general answers or even fishing for positive feedback. In situations such as this, ensure that you are giving your boss what he/she wants first before delving into your laundry list of complaints about the person’s management style and personal quirks. And even solicited feedback requires you follow the early steps to make sure it is optimally productive.
Giving your boss feedback should be a thoughtful affair approached with respect, diligence, and a sense of empathy. With the proper planning and preparation, you can provide helpful feedback to your boss that allows both of you to benefit from the experience.