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Approaching your manager with tough stuff to say can feel scary. But nobody finds true success without constructive feedback – all you need is a game plan.
Today we’re giving you 24 feedback examples of how to give upward feedback — from you to your manager — that’s beneficial, strategic, and kind. We’ll zero in on the issues employees most often run into with their managers.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
Feedback re: micromanagement
Most managers genuinely want the best for everyone on their teams. But, sometimes the fear of missing a deadline or delivering a less-than-stellar product to customers settles in. And when that happens, some managers resort to high-control behaviors, rather than trusting their team to do what they do best.
Unfortunately, too much control quickly kills morale and stifles innovation. So how do you raise the issue without causing friction? Here are some feedback examples:
- “Thank you so much for taking such an interest in my projects. One thing I’m learning about myself is that I actually do my best work when I have deep, uninterrupted time. Can we try weekly Sync-Ups for the next month? In between our one-on-ones, you can count on me to bring up anything that needs your attention.”
- “I’d like to schedule a quick Sync-Up to get clear on your expectations for external email communication. After our meeting, you can have confidence that I’ll carry out the plan without the need for further oversight.”
Feedback re: a disruptive team member or culture
Sometimes there’s a negative vibe in the room. Maybe one team member is running over the others, or there’s a culture of undermining others’ success. How do you let your manager know that their team members are suffering because of their lack of intervention?
- “I know you really care about our organizational culture, so I wanted to ask for your help with a problem. Will and I are stuck in an ongoing cycle of tension. It was visible in this morning’s team meeting when he interrupted me and rolled his eyes. Would you be willing to help us with problem-solving?”
- “I’ve been feeling that our team seems unusually tense these days – like we aren’t at ease in the same work environment anymore. I wondered if you might have some ideas about what’s causing the breakdown in our connection?”
Feedback re: a lack of employee recognition
One of the key elements of any employee success program is offering positive feedback and employee recognition. How can you give your manager effective feedback if they habitually forget to say, “Good work!”? Here are a couple of feedback examples:
- “Could we take a moment to look at my previous round of quarterly goals before we move ahead? I exceeded my targets last quarter but didn’t hear anything. I wondered if maybe there was a miscommunication about expectations or something more you had hoped to see from me.”
- “I do best when I know that my accomplishments and efforts are seen. Would you be willing to give me a nod or pat on the back – over email, in the hall, or on the recognition feed, if I do something great?”
Feedback re: increasing feedback frequency
A thriving culture of feedback is essential for great employee experience. But what do you do when a manager routinely fails to provide effective feedback that helps you grow?
- “As I look ahead to next quarter, I wonder if I could get your perspective on how my work has been going lately. I’d like your honest feedback on what you need more of and less of, and how I can be most helpful to our team.”
- “In our next weekly Sync-Up, could we take a couple minutes to chat about my new client? I’m sure you have goals in mind for that relationship and I want to make sure I’m moving in the direction you’d like to see us go.”
Pro tip: If you and your manager collaborate on a shared document for meeting agenda templates, don’t be afraid to add an item like “Manager feedback on project X.”
Feedback re: career guidance
Part of a great employee success program (i.e. Sync-Ups and quarterly performance Check-Ins) is keeping up the conversation about aspirations, interests, and career goals. How can you raise the issue if you’re not getting the mentoring you need to move up? Here are a few feedback examples:
- “In our next Check-In conversation, I wonder if you’d be willing to spend a few minutes discussing my career path. You have a long track record of success and I would value your input on where I should direct my energy next.”
- “I’d like to tap into your coaching wisdom in our next one-on-one. I’ve been thinking about my future, and I’m curious what skills and experiences I should be building right now.”
Feedback re: feeling overwhelmed
Sometimes you have a manager that’s all zeal. They value their working relationships with other managers, so they hand out generous “yeses” — to everything. What’s the best way to let your manager know that their team is struggling to pick up the tab on their commitments?
- “Which of these outside projects would you like me to prioritize right now? With what’s come in on top of our normal workload, I’m spread pretty thin. I’m worried I may even be headed for burnout.”
- “Good morning. I just saw the new project pop up, and I wanted to talk with you before it gets rolling in earnest. Our calendar is already wall-to-wall for deliverables this quarter. I’m concerned that the quality of my work may suffer if we keep adding extra items.”
Feedback re: a lack of clarity on assignments or deadlines
What happens when a manager fails to clearly communicate expectations or instructions for projects? Well… both employee engagement and employee performance suffer. Fortunately, this is one area where a worker can take charge of their own employee experience by offering constructive criticism.
- “I wanted to see if you could give me a fuller view of the contours of this project. Maybe three to five key objectives? That would help me ensure that what I offer wows our new client.”
- “I didn’t see a deadline for this new website build. Would you mind adding one to the project post? I want to make sure I prioritize it appropriately. Thank you!”
Feedback re: failure to give credit where it’s due
A delicate interpersonal situation like this calls for all your savviest communication skills. When you offer constructive criticism, remember to talk face-to-face if possible. Discuss behaviors rather than presumed motives, and make sure you supply specific examples.
- “I saw in the recognition feed that you received a nomination. Congratulations! I’m curious if you’ve shared the names of those who contributed to the project. I know the rest of the team would love a shout out for their hard work too.”
- “I’m certain that this was just an oversight, not something intentional, but did you realize that today’s post names you as the content creator of our team’s ad? Would you be willing to correct that in the next meeting?”
Feedback re: a manager who avoids conflict
Some leaders seem to operate with the hope that a problem will go away if it’s simply left alone. How do you talk to a manager who isn’t comfortable addressing hard subjects?
- “I would really love your honest feedback about my work on this latest project. I know you’re great at highlighting positive behaviors, and I just want you to know that I’m eager for all types of feedback. Both positive and critical feedback help me get better.”
- “I’ve noticed that there seems to be a little friction in our communication these last couple of weeks. Is there anything I owe you an apology for? Anything you need me to work on?”
Feedback re: disorganization and/or tardiness
Maybe you have a manager who’s highly successful in many ways, but they aren’t on top of the details. How do you let them know that it’s affecting team performance? Here are a couple feedback examples:
- “I wanted to fill you in on the items we covered in this morning’s team meeting before you arrived. Would it be helpful if we changed the meeting time? We’ve noticed that you’re often more than 15 minutes late.”
- “I wanted to follow up about the project you assigned to me last week. I see that it’s due on Friday, but I still don’t have the files I need to start. Would you have time to upload those today? When I get the information so late in the game, it makes it hard to do my best work.”
Feedback re: favoritism
This is a tricky one, and bringing it up can easily put a manager on the defensive. Do what you can to assume the best about their motives and couch things in terms of your desire to learn, rather than what they’re doing wrong. Here are ideas for raising the issue:
- “Thank you for the insights you’ve shared in my performance Check-In. I wondered if I could ask a follow up question. I’ve noticed that Sadie got a lot of opportunities this year for training and advancement–I’d love to learn what I can from her success. Could you share with me what’s giving her that edge and how I can incorporate those skills too?”
- “Would it be possible for us to set up a weekly rhythm of face-to-face Sync-Ups? I’d like to be more intentional about investing in my working relationships and receiving mentoring. Your collegial relationship with Maureen has particularly inspired me. I hope you can find the time to talk.”
Feedback re: blame shifting
Sometimes managers fail to bear their share of the responsibility for bumps in the road. That can create bitterness in a team quickly. What can you say?
- “I wanted to talk with you about a miscommunication that came up in our team meeting today. You’d mentioned that our team members dropped the ball. I’m afraid the reason we weren’t able to complete the project on time was that your brief lacked necessary details.”
- “I was saddened to hear that you understood our team’s failure to be a lack of effort rather than a lack of preparation. In January, you told us that training for the new software was coming, but it never did. We had to learn on our own, and as a result, we missed our benchmarks.”
It takes a lot of courage to be that frank. But clarity is kindness. Now that you’ve seen upward feedback examples in action, you can go into your next feedback session with increased confidence.
At WorkTango, we’re revolutionizing how the world’s most forward-thinking companies engage and inspire their people. We offer the only holistic Employee Experience Platform built for the modern workplace that enables meaningful recognition and rewards, offers actionable insights through employee surveys, and supports alignment through goal setting and feedback.
WorkTango is built for the workplace we all want to be a part of – where priorities become clear, achievements are celebrated, and employees have a voice. To learn more, check out our platform overview video, or schedule a demo.