Is it just me…or do teams have to be braver at telling their bosses how they are performing?

good or bad

I’ve read a few of reports recently that focus on the current state of the UK workforce. One of these reports, Lanson’s Britain at Work 2016, resonated with me over one particular comment, that although 92% of managers that completed the survey thought they had good management and leadership skills, their employees disagreed, with 34% saying they needed more support, 32% complaining about their manager’s integrity in communication and 35% that their managers did a lot of telling and not much listening (see me talk about this in my other article on Service Centred Leadership here).

Managers rating themselves highly?

Now, is it a surprise that managers will think more highly of their skills than their employees? I don’t think so. Despite our British tendency to be self-critical I would imagine, in a situation that is anonymous, we would tend to blow our trumpet a bit harder than others might. I believe I am the greatest father in the world (and in fairness I do have 2 coasters, 3 mugs, a teddy bear and a fridge magnet to support that claim) but I am sure my daughters tell a different story when asked!

It’s easier when it’s anonymous

Equally, anonymity makes it far easier to give your boss a dressing down than when confronted by some unhelpful behaviour if you are together. It is here, I believe, that the true problem lies. There has been a lot of talk recently about the move towards delivering performance feedback on a much more regular basis and doing away with performance review cycles, but this only works if individuals feel brave enough to make what may feel like a career defining step and tell their boss that their management skills leave something to be desired.

But managers tend to receive little training

But let’s take a look at another finding from the report, that in general nearly 40% of managers surveyed said that they hadn’t received any people management skills training since getting their role. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. In some industries this shoots up to nearly 70%! Is it any wonder, then, that we have managers out there who are trying to do their best with a limited skill set (probably driven by their technical experience in a specialist area) and maybe not meeting up to their teams’ expectations? After all, if nobody is giving them any degree of upwards assessment of their abilities, then they will quickly assume that what they are doing is ‘right’ and stick to that path.

So, for those of you who want to develop some courage in giving your manager some great, helpful feedback…here are 4 key tips

Ask them if they want it.

Our fear of a situation comes from our assumptions around consequences. So, if we believe that our boss is going to get angry about feedback we will avoid doing it. In these situations, we have to test our assumptions, so ask them whether they are OK to get some feedback from you. The worst case scenario here is that they confirm the assumption by saying no, but this is highly unlikely.

Be prepared

If they say yes, then you need to be ready to give them the feedback so make sure you’ve written it down and practiced it. It will undermine your integrity if you ask them and then have nothing to say.

Stick to the facts

Feedback has to be evidence based, so make sure you stick to the facts of the situation. Don’t be tempted to make assumptions about why your manager may behave the way they do, or start to openly speculate. Use this model as a way of delivering evidence based, judgement free feedback:

  • What was the behaviour you observed? E.g. When you spoke over me in that meeting…
  • What was the impact it had on you, personally? E.g. It upset me…
  • Why did it have that impact? E.g. Because it made me think that you didn’t value what I was saying

Make sure you do it as soon as you can after the event, or in the moment if you can.

It’s very easy to store up feedback over a period of time and then let people have it all with both barrels. This isn’t helpful at all and will only help to create a conflict situation. So, if you experience something unhelpful and don’t feel that you can do it in the moment ask for some personal time to catch up as soon as possible and use the model above to give them the feedback concerned. If you leave it for a month, then how will they see it as important to you?

Unless we, as employees, get better at helping our managers to improve, especially within the training vacuum they are experiencing, we are doing them a disservice. Most people want to be great at their jobs and will welcome the support. Give feedback in the right way and you will make a positive difference, not just to them but to yourself as well.

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