How to Give Your Boss Feedback Without Sounding Like a Jerk

Gusto Editors

We joined forces with Lattice to build a practical feedback guide for small businesses. Read the rest of the series and learn how to give non-jerky feedback to your employee, coworker, and client.

It can be extremely intimidating to give feedback to your boss. You want to provide input so that they can improve, but the power dynamics can make an already delicate action seem loaded with potential pitfalls.

Plus, there are so many stories of feedback gone wrong.

A current Lattice employee, Helen, ran into this issue at a previous job when she worked as a flight attendant at a major airline. During a training session with other flight attendants, where their head instructor and manager was talking about the strict policies they needed to follow.

Airlines have notoriously convoluted yet strict guidelines, policies, and processes. During class, Helen’s manager told Helen and her fellow flight attendant trainees about one of these particularly ill-constructed policies. Helen was so nonplussed by it that she raised her hand, questioned the reasoning of the policy, and laughed a bit at its’ ridiculousness. She felt as though her coworkers would obviously agree with her point of view.

Unfortunately, this did not sit well with the instructor, who referred the employee to the instructor’s boss — who then dressed her down for her constant questioning of policies.

If stories like this make you cringe, you’re not alone. But it’s worth noting that the problem here isn’t necessarily that Helen questioned her instructor or the policy, it’s that she did so in public. In this venue, the instructor was unsurprisingly disinclined to discuss the subject with her; even worse, the way the Lattice employee went about asking her question offended the instructor.

Why feedback?

In Helen’s case, treating the situation a little more delicately and bringing up her concerns in a more private manner would have made a world of difference. In hindsight, Helen thinks that the instructor would’ve felt more comfortable if she’d had reached out to them after the training session and spoken to them one on one.

So, before giving feedback, take a moment to evaluate what you want to say, how best to say it, and how receptive your boss will be to it. If your feedback is coming from a frustration with something, can you pinpoint why you feel that way?

Also, be aware of how best to give feedback to your boss, both regarding how they as an individual might take it, and what, if any, methods your business has in place for you to do so.

Keep reading here on the Lattice blog. 

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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