This will be nothing new to you, but many employees take issue with something. It could be the boss, an annoying colleague, or the work environment. There is always a reason, but what to do about it? One of the options is, that you can choose to leave. The alternative: stay where you are and take some positive action, e.g. have a critical conversation with your manager. Fear to do so, does not help you at all, so how do you do it and overcome this fear?
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For those of you who are ready to tackle your current problems, you will find hereunder the 10 best tips for giving critical feedback to your boss.
1. Avoid such a conversation
You are about to sit down with your manager. Still, here is the most important tip: don’t get to the point where you have to have a difficult conversation like this. How? By having a meeting with your manager on a regular basis, for example, every month. To discuss the progress of projects, to discuss the approach to matters, but also to discuss the working atmosphere, for example. By entering into dialogue frequently, you prevent problems from turning into annoying issues that make you feel bad. And in the end, you no longer dare to mention them. If really necessary, take the initiative for this dialogue yourself and determine the agenda for the meeting yourself or even in consultation.
2. Do not wait
It is better to express any objections and reservations as soon as possible. The longer you keep your mouth shut, the more difficult it becomes to discuss them, as the problems in your perception keep getting worse. Plus, feedback comes in best when it comes to something that just happened. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to make your experience concrete to your manager. Fear is the worst advisor in these circumstances and will solve nothing. Do not think that over time the problem will go away, it will not.
3. Prepare yourself well
Practice the conversation beforehand. In front of the mirror, or with a good friend. This way you can calmly determine what the best approach is and how you will formulate your story. You also learn to let go of any anger. Negative emotions will cloud your arguments. And it is difficult for a manager to see through that anger. Chances are because you let your emotions speak, he won’t recognize what you’re saying. You will have lost him just after you started.
4. Pick a good moment
As mentioned, it is important to provide feedback shortly after the events to which that comment relates. It is best for you to decide for yourself what ultimately is a good time to start the conversation. In any case, opt for a quiet moment when you and your manager have enough time for each other. Inquire in advance when he has time for such a conversation. Find out the moments that your supervisor seems to be under much less pressure.
5. Talk about your own perception
Talk about your own perception, but take care he understands and don’t judge. Don’t say, “You’re choking me,” say, “You’ve canceled our project review three times now. As a project leader, I’ve been on my own for a month without your input. I don’t feel taken seriously by you.’ Never speak on behalf of the team. You can say that ‘the team’ doesn’t like the atmosphere. But who is the team? You can’t possibly speak for all your immediate colleagues. There is a good chance that if the manager is going to check whether ‘the team’ is indeed having problems with the way things are going, there is someone who does not share your opinion. After the conversation with your boss, you can always come up with the idea of polling the entire team about what you have put on the table.
6. Be specific
Provide specific examples to substantiate your observation. Don’t get into exaggerations. Avoid phrases like, “I’ll never be appreciated.” Or: ‘Something always goes wrong.’ There will certainly be examples showing that the manager sometimes gives a pat on the back and that the organization is mostly in order. Therefore, come up with concrete examples that are recognizable to the other person. Only then will he be able to recognize the problems.
7. Translate blame into wishes
Those who give good feedback also contribute to possible solutions. Tell him what you think should be done and how you think your manager should tackle it. Use the I-phrase here, as in the entire conversation. Don’t say, “You have to do so-and-so.” But: ‘I propose to divide the tasks differently.’ In other words, you do not put ultimatums on your boss, but you give him a possible solution.
8. Let the message sink in
Once you’ve calmly said what’s bothering you, take a little break (count to yourself for a few seconds). In this way, you give the other party the chance to let the message sink in. After that break, ask for a response: “What do you think of this?” And mind you, they have to answer this question, before the conversation can go any further. The reply will give you a good indication of what will happen next.
9. Create a dialogue
Your manager’s response to your feedback is another reason for you to respond. This creates a real dialogue. If the response is that your story is shallow, ask why. Ask if your samples are recognized. Ultimately, it is important that understanding is created between you and your conversation partner so that you can find a solution together. As said before, it is better you will give a direction for a solution. It might not be the best one, but your leader will appreciate that you try to think along with him.
10. Help! An asshole boss
Although feedback from the workplace is increasingly encouraged, it can happen that a supervisor denies that something is wrong. No matter how clear, concrete and calm you have presented the situation. Then don’t give up right away. Keep quietly asking for explanations: “Why don’t you agree?” If you feel that an impasse is imminent, name it: ‘I notice that we are reaching an impasse.’ Even in this difficult phase, it is important to keep the blame to yourself. Make the conversation a joint responsibility. Here is an example of what could happen.
Work not well divided
While Leroy, project manager at a media agency, was up to his ears in work, a direct colleague of his was not doing much. This colleague had a full-time job, but his assignment required far fewer hours. Leroy saw with dismay how his colleague spent many hours sending personal e-mails and making private phone calls. At first, Leroy left the situation for what it was. But gradually the unbalanced division of work led to ever more annoyance. He decided to speak to his manager about it.
He did not find it difficult or annoying to address his boss when something was wrong in the organization. It becomes more difficult if the problem relates to a colleague. it was not his intention to bring others down. Nor did he want to burden this colleague with an unnecessary amount of work or give him work that he could not handle at all. But it was clear that the distribution had to be different.
Leroy didn’t take much preparation, at least not consciously. ‘I told family and friends about the unpleasant situation at work, simply because I had to tell my story. They also thought that I would do well to talk to my boss about it. The fact that they proved me right gave me more confidence. Moreover, because I had talked a lot about it, I was able to come to my boss with a complete and well-founded story.’
Leroy’s boss remained on the floor during the conversation. “He took my story for granted, he would think about it.” Leroy was afraid that there would be no results. That fear was unjustified. ‘Shortly after that, my boss went to talk to my colleague and pushed more projects to him. The work is now much better distributed. I have achieved what I wanted.’
But what if all of this does not work out for you?
If all of the above doesn’t solve anything for you, and a manager really doesn’t show an ounce of understanding, then check to what extent the problems you bring up have a really negative influence on your work. If you come to the conclusion that you cannot perform your work pleasantly and there is no improvement, then you should seriously ask yourself whether you want to stay in this team, this department, or this organization.
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