5 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism to Your Manager

September 1, 2021
7 Min Read
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James David Horton

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Feedback is a two-way street. It should never just be from leadership to team members. Don’t get us wrong, we understand that giving feedback to your manager can be scary. But feedback is intended for all individuals.

That’s why we’ve compiled tips, tricks, and examples of constructive criticism for your manager whenever you head into your next one-on-one meeting. To learn more, check out our complete constructive criticism guide to get the rundown of all things feedback!

Why upward feedback is important in the workplace

According to a 2015 Gallup study, it’s estimated that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. So, it’s no secret that managers play a critical role in our day-to-day interactions at work. 

We’ve all heard the narrative where folks have quit their position because of toxic managers. They’re burnt out, overwhelmed, undervalued, and disengaged. Many times that shock comes after an overdue feedback session. If you want to keep your team, excited, engaged, and motivated, start holding managers accountable for their actions. 

If anything, organizational leaders should encourage their peers to provide feedback regularly and hold follow-up meetings to see progress and take action. It’s only when managers fail to participate or promote a two-way feedback culture, that team members start to detach, disengage, and eventually find new opportunities.

Here are some benefits of upward feedback:

  • Shed light on issues that managers may not be aware of
  • Encourages a feedback culture
  • Creating a level playing field for everyone in the company
  • Keeps everyone accountable for their actions
  • Cultivates authentic relationships between managers and team members
  • Give team members a safe space to be open and honest with their manager

5 tips for giving constructive criticism

According to an Achievers report, about 90% of team members say they’re more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback. However, only 12% of workers feel that their manager asks for feedback. Here are some tips and tricks to help you initiate feedback to your manager and promote professional growth.

Tip 1: Express your feelings

As an employee talking to a manager, it’s important to share how you’re feeling at work. Whether you’re overwhelmed, stressed, or burnt-out —  your manager should know. For example, if you start to feel overworked because of a project assigned by your manager, it’s important to relay that feedback and share how you have a lot on your plate. 

Tip 2: Keep the conversation private

Giving constructive criticism in the workplace should always be done in private. Just think about how you would like to receive feedback. Giving feedback in public can make your manager feel targeted and attacked. That’s why we recommend giving constructive criticism in private and positive feedback or kudos in public. 

Tip 3: Be specific and use facts

Whether you’re giving positive or negative feedback, be clear, concise, straightforward. And don’t forget to use specific examples and facts based on your observations. As the person giving the feedback, there’s a level of investment you have in the person. So, be sure to give actionable suggestions on your manager’s personal and professional growth.

Tip 4: Include positive feedback

Remember to always incorporate positive feedback and public praise. No one ever wants to hear all the bad with any positive aspects to an individual’s experience. Positive feedback includes recognizing your manager’s superpowers, highlighting the big and smalls wins and lastly showing gratitude for their support. And just like constructive criticism, be specific and provide examples of where the received went above and beyond. 

Tip 5: Follow up with ideas for improvement

Constructive criticism is a one-and-done process. Recall moments when your manager gave you feedback and then followed up with you to see how you were progressing. It’s time to extend that courtesy back. Once you’ve relayed your feedback respectfully, come together and make a plan that helps them grow and you feel supported in your role. Set up weekly meetings to discuss work situations or to do a wellness check-in.

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