How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Boss

Jun 27, 2024

Giving constructive feedback is never easy. Giving constructive feedback to your boss can be downright intimidating.

Most people know how important communication is in the workplace. Giving healthy and productive feedback, however, is a learned skill that not many can do. Yet providing your supervisor with information can improve your team’s dynamics and give you a chance at a more fulfilling work experience. Also called “upward feedback,” giving your supervisor this important information also helps organizational growth. Your transparency can even help your supervisor with their leadership skills.

Before You Give Feedback

You absolutely must prepare before giving feedback to your boss. First, think about your intentions for providing this information. Are you trying to improve the situation, or is this a venting session? If it’s the latter, you might be better off sharing your frustrations with someone else.

Make sure you are ready with specific instances that show your points. Practice using language that identifies certain behaviors or tactics and not the people involved. Your feedback will be easier to understand and received better if you avoid generalizations and personal attacks.

It’s also important to find an appropriate time to share your thoughts. Don’t wait until tensions are running high or right before a deadline. Then, secure a private meeting with your boss so you can both be more focused on the conversation. Just be prepared for whatever reaction they might have, including being defensive. Receiving feedback is often just as difficult as giving it!

How to Give Feedback

When the time is right, approach your conversation using a structure called the SBI Model. This acronym stands for situation, behavior, and impact. First, explain the situation and give context so that your boss can understand. Next, describe the specific behavior that happened. Then, share the impact that behavior had on you, your team, or your project.

For example: “At last week’s team meeting (situation), you kept interrupting me during my update (behavior). This made it difficult for us to stay on track and felt like you were undermining me (impact).

While the SBI Model sounds clinical, it can be difficult to remain calm. Always be empathetic and respectful! Acknowledge that your supervisor has a challenging position and is trying their best. They might even be unaware of the situation or how it is impacting others. Another tip is to use “I” statements to express your feelings without sounding accusatory.

Always try to come prepared with a solution to the conflict if possible. Suggesting improvements shows your commitment to positive change. Your ability to be a team player and supportive colleague is key in this situation.

For example: “Maybe we could start a system where each person has uninterrupted time to give their updates. This would keep us on track and let everyone speak.”

You should also encourage your supervisor to give their own feedback on the situation. This should be a conversation, not a monologue.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

If you want the feedback to create positive change (and you do), you have to be prepared to follow up on the conversation. Set a date with your supervisor to discuss the situation again and evaluate progress made—or ongoing challenges. Then, take note of how the feedback impacts their actions. Has the situation improved? Is the unwanted behavior still happening?

A Final Note

None of this applies if there is a serious breach of workplace rules or worse, employment laws. If you have witnessed or experienced behavior that is illegal and/or harmful, bypass your boss and go directly to your human resources department.

Written by: Employment Enterprises

Subscribe to Employment Expert

Employment Expert Subscribe