How to Give Your Boss Honest Feedback When You're Upset With Them

Don't make a big deal out of isolated incidents but when you see a bad pattern emerging you have to speak up.
How to Give Your Boss Honest Feedback When You're Upset With Them
Image credit: David Lees | Getty Images
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We all get frustrated at work from time to time. However, if you’re consistently unhappy with your boss’s actions, it can take a toll both at work and at home. It’s okay to tell your superiors about your dissatisfaction with certain issues, as long as it’s done properly. Diplomacy is crucial for addressing workplace tensions, and this is especially true if a particular situation involves your boss or another superior.

So what do you do if your boss is driving you up a wall and you feel trapped around it? These options may help provide a way out, or at least relieve some of the pressure.

Offer constructive feedback.

Honest feedback helps bosses and leaders understand how others perceive them. Without an accurate picture, their performances are likely to suffer. Constructive feedback is vital for everyone in the workplace, and providing it to your boss can help him or her see where they may have blind spots. Ultimately, if everyone were to provide this type of thing in an intelligent, respectful manger, it could help everyone in your department or even the whole organization.

It’s also important to know when to provide such feedback. Ideally, you want to wait until you are asked for your input before giving it. If your boss never asks for feedback, then it would be prudent to ask if they want it before offering it. For example, if you and your team are about to undertake a new project, you might ask your boss or manager if he or she would like regular updates and feedback from your unique perspective. Framing it this way will make it easier for you to approach him or her with any concerns.

Related: How to Manipulate Your Awful Boss Into Working for You

Respect the chain of command.

Though most workplaces and organizations have some sort of conflict resolution policy, employees often are daunted at the prospect of airing grievances about their bosses. These fears should be overcome if the concerns are genuine and impact the company. If your boss is undermining your ability to do your best work, it’s vital to let him or her know. Don't let it snowball into a bigger issue that damages your working relationship.

If your company has a conflict resolution policy, it’s important to follow it. If your issue lies between you and the person to whom you directly report, it’s essential to talk to him or her first about the problem. If you try to go over his or her head, chances are good that such a move will not be taken kindly, and may further widen the chasm between the two of you. Follow your organization’s policy. The only exceptions will likely be if the other party is involved in any unethical or illegal activity.

Related: 4 Strategies for Reducing Workplace Conflict

Build your case.

A single incident may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but unless it’s indicative of a larger pattern, these one-off frustrations are better swept aside. However, if repeat incidents are harming your ability to enjoy your work or work effectively, it’s important to nip these situations in the bud before they get out of hand.

If you’re considering letting your boss know about his or her difficult behavior, try to compile evidence that supports your position. Many people will naturally attempt to deflect criticisms, especially if it’s seemingly out of nowhere. However, if you’ve taken the time to thoroughly explain your position and provide examples of how your boss’s behaviors have hurt your work, you’re far more likely to reach an agreeable result.

Related: 5 Ways to Tell If Your Workplace Is Really Toxic

Don't be intimidated.

Even if you take the time to frame your criticisms as professionally and diplomatically as possible, it may not be well-received. Your boss may get defensive or even upset by your feedback. When you are met with resistance after providing honest feedback, it’s important to hold your ground. If your boss asked for feedback, let him or her know you were only doing what was asked of you. Regardless of whether or not your boss asked for criticism, let him or her know how you came to your conclusions.

Knowing how to frame your arguments is important, but so is recognizing when you’re better off keeping your mouth shut. Some people cannot handle criticism, and these individuals can be unpredictable in their reactions to negative feedback. If your boss or another colleague is such a person, it may be better to keep your feedback to yourself unless it has a measurable effect on the organization. If your criticisms injure a fragile ego or volatile personality, that person is more likely to seize an opportunity to make life difficult for you in the future. It may be best to just hold off with any criticism and let them take themselves down eventually through their own behavior.

At the end of the day, your supervisor is a person too, and his or her behavior may be the result of stressors unknown to you. Diplomacy is essential to smoothing over workplace tensions, so if the time comes when you must air a grievance with a superior, make sure you think carefully about the best way to approach the situation.