Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Oh Boy, Here We Go!

4 steps for giving your boss negative feedback

Feedback is essential for growth. If you need some good background on the importance of feedback, see some past blogs here and here. Giving positive feedback is easy and enjoyable. But giving negative feedback, that is a totally different story.

Sharing uncomfortable truths can be awkward for giver and the receiver. But guess what? Presenting constructive feedback, is actually crucial. It is the best way to be honest with yourself, with the other person, and to give your friend the best chance to grow.

Our friends at Harvard Business Review outlined the steps for presenting this kind of feedback. Just for you, I’ve taken their thoughts and helped them keep it real. This is not an academic exercise. This is life, and love, and you helping another human being to grow. Let’s reframe an uncomfortable situation and turn it into a productive one.


Here are the four steps:

  1. First, you question yourself.
  2. Then you prepare for the conversation.
  3. The crucial beginning to the conversation...
  4. Finally, end the conversation with gratitude.

Here is your template:

Question yourself before giving feedback.

Clear your head. You must get out of the emotions of the situation and look at it logically. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Is this a one-time thing that needs to be addressed, or is it ongoing?
  • Are you overreacting? Did you become emotional because of the incident?
  • Is this affecting only you, or others around you also?
  • Do the risks or costs of the conversation far outweigh the benefits?

In short, dig deep, ask some gut-level questions, and decide if this issue really needs a conversation. Don’t try to talk yourself out of it! And don’t try to talk yourself into it… just keep it real. Truly consider the positive and/or negative implications that a conversation will have.


Next, prepare for the conversation.

Don’t just decide to do it after lunch and head to your boss’s office. Schedule a meeting when appropriate, and don’t just spring it on someone. If asked “What is the meeting about?” simply say something along the lines of “I’ve been thinking about some ways to help us move forward as a team and I’d like to share my thoughts.”

It’s important to be ready. Please prepare beforehand. Come up with a rough outline. Decide on which feedback is the most important for you to communicate in love.

Start the conversation!

Small talk makes me more nervous when there is something important to discuss. So I would usually want to start with something like this:

“I appreciate your time, I’m thankful for this opportunity to discuss something important to me, and I’d like to jump right in. I’ve been considering ways that we can really be an optimal team. I know there are areas that I can continue to improve, but I also have recognized a couple of potential barriers in the way I respond to your leadership.”


Next you’ll want to use “I feel…” statements.

“For example, I feel you are fairly consistent in sharing with us areas that you want to see improvement, even pointing out individual shortfalls in front of the team. But I believe that I/we have some pretty cool accomplishments that go unnoticed or unrecognized. That kind of feedback makes me feel more demotivated than encouraged.”

You’ve got to help your boss know how you feel. Never ever say things like “A lot of people have been approaching me and saying…” If you are the type of person that other people know they can come to with negative thoughts, gossip, etc., that tells me volumes about YOU. If that is true about you, listen carefully: You have a problem! And to your boss, YOU are a problem!


End with gratitude.

“I was a little nervous about having this conversation. I really need to THANK YOU for taking the time to listen to me. I am more committed than ever to our team and making great progress. I really appreciate the way you received what I’ve had to say.”

Later that day or the next day, a quick email: “I was thinking again about our conversation. Thank you for hearing with your heart… great days ahead!”

Look at that—you are already making progress!


Yes, you can do it! I’m here to help however I can and to cheer you on! This type of important communication is a step towards greatness.


Much love,


Dr. Rob

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