• How to tell your Boss (and others) they suck.

    How to tell your Boss (and others) they suck.

    Posted 08/02/2013 By in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PEOPLE, MANAGEMENT With | No Comments

    Boss Suck

    A short guide to giving effective feedback.

    If the title of this post caught your attention chances are you’re not alone.  Many of us have feedback we want, dare I say NEED to share with others.  Now I don’t actually recommend the approach in the title of this post despite sometimes really wanting to but there IS a way to get your point across.

    In my work I see first hand the effect that an inability to give effective feedback to others has on the team.  It significantly affects performance, morale, relationships and engagement.  Often I’m called in to run a Team-Building workshop to help fix it.  I enjoy these but am very much “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” kind of guy.  So I often deliver feedback workshops to help teams or individuals try and avoid the problems associated with non-existant or poor feedback in the workplace.

    The first thing we need to accept is that feedback is CRITICAL.  We simply could not do what we need to do, whether it’s at work or driving your car down the street, without feedback.  The second tip is that if you’re prepared to give feedback, you’d better be prepared to receive it AND the way you behave when getting this feedback will certainly influence how the conversation will go.  There are four types of feedback as displayed in the table below.

    4 Types of Feedback LgeWhen preparing to give feedback it’s important to consider how it’s likely to be received.  The model above will help you to do this.  In the table there are four quadrants made up of two columns and two rows.  The row headings indicate whether the feedback you’re giving is positive or negative.  NB:  I typically avoid the term negative and prefer constructive but for the purpose of this post Im talking simply about when the feedback is not good.  The column headings refer to whether the feedback confirms or disconfirms the recipients on views on the situation or task.  The dark green squares indicate a reasonably happy outcome.  In the top left, I think I’m good and you agree.  No problems there.  The bottom right is when I think I’ve done a bad job and you disagree with me.  In this case, should I choose to believe you, I will be pleasantly surprised.  The bottom left, while not as happy an outcome as as the other two, is still ok.  This is when I think I’ve done a bad job and you agree with me.  If I was being self-deprecating here it might come as a surprise that you agreed with me but if I was genuine there would be no surprise, so still a reasonable outcome.  The top right square, shown in bright red, is the tricky one.  This depicts a situation where I think I’ve done a good job, and you disagree with me.  This is the feedback that stings, that is often difficult to give BUT it is the feedback that can provide the most growth for the recipient.  It’s also the conversations that we either put off , avoid and stew over (often culminating in you snapping or becoming increasingly frustrated), or stumble through and end up in disagreement.

    So, take time to think about how the information you have will be perceived by the recipient.  The more you challenge their world view, the more likely they’ll resist or be upset.  My approach is to play on human curiosity.  We are incredibly concerned about what other people think of us, some more than others of course.  Perhaps approach the conversation with something like… “I have some feedback for you on x project that I’d like to share with you if you’re interested?”

    The thing I’ve found, and I’m sure you would agree, is that everyone’s got an opinion.  If I took it all onboard I’d be a basket case.  So I give myself the right to choose.  In fact it’s a good principle to get your head around as a giver or receiver.

    The recipient gets to choose whether or not to accept the feedback.

    If I get feedback that is delivered with poor or malicious intent, is not constructive in a way I can do something about, is inconsistent with other feedback or is delivered from a non-credible or poorly regarded source, I tend to ignore it.  It’s a form of filter for your own protection.  Of course, what’s good for the Goose is also good for the Gander meaning that the recipient of your feedback is also allowed the right to ignore it (sometimes to their detriment however).  To avoid this happening, make sure you have good intentions and state those intentions clearly to help them separate Intent from Impact (more on this in a later post).  Check that their ears are open and they are ready for the feedback (if they’re curious and ask for the feedback, it makes it far easier for you to share your message).  Make sure your feedback is constructive, meaning that it’s specific and not subjective.  Eg/ You haven’t helped with the rostering (specific and non-judgemental) vs You’re lazy (subjective personal opinion).  Watch also for words like ‘always’ and ‘never’.  The other day I was accused of ‘always leaving food in the sink’.  My immediate response was ‘Not always’.  Now I do leave food in the sink often, but not always so the intended feedback didn’t get through.  What would have been better would’ve been “Sean. I’ve noticed you often/sometimes leave food in the sink.  I’d prefer it if you didn’t because it makes extra mess for me to clean up.”  Even better again “Baby, I know you’re incredibly busy and it’s wonderful that you made dinner for me again but if you could please take the vege scraps out of the sink as you go there wouldn’t be such a mess for me to clean up.”  ;-)

    So to summarise.

    • Make sure your feedback is intended and crafted to help the person improve.
    • Think about how it’s likely to be received and take more care for the disconfirmatory negative feedback
    • Consider their personality if you’re a direct communicator your natural style may offend more feeling types.  If you’re more feeling, you may need to dial up your forthrightness so the other person actually hears you.
    • Make sure you are a credible source.  Factual information, good intentions, clear and specific feedback.
    • Ask for permission to give feedback “Is now a good time?”
    • Accept their right to ignore your feedback.  As frustrating as it can be the other person doesn’t have to dance to your tune just because you took the trouble to share some information (although wouldn’t that be nice).
    • Make sure what you share is constructive – that they are clear on what they need to do to improve.

    I’ve been talking for awhile now and there’s so much more to say but I think I’ll save it for another post- you’ve probably got some conversations you need to prepare for.

    Oh, one more thing.  The more you practice these conversations the better you will become at them.  They may never get ‘easy’ but you will become less avoidant of them AND more effective at them.



    Please help me to spread the word by sharing.

      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    HTML tags are not allowed.

    Why ask?

    Copyright Blaze Unlimited Pty Ltd, 2007. All rights reserved.