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How to Give Feedback to Your Boss (in a Nice Way)

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70% of the differences1 in employee engagement at work can be traced back to the actions and behaviors of their managers. Your relationship with your boss significantly impacts your job satisfaction and performance. 

And sooner or later, you’ll hit a bump in the road with your manager, where you’ll have to give them feedback.

This article is designed to empower and equip you to do just that. Giving upward feedback can be scary, so we’ll explore actionable tips, address common fears, and delve into different types of feedback that can help you communicate effectively. 

6 Specific Steps to Effectively Give Feedback to Your Boss

Before giving feedback, read through these steps, and you’ll be on the right track.

Choose the right time and place.

Timing and context can distinguish between a safe and connected conversation where you feel heard and a messy and defensive brawl.

Just keep in mind these dos and don’ts.


  • Do choose a private setting. Opt for a space where you can talk without distractions or eavesdroppers. Privacy creates more safety.
  • Do pick a low-stress time. Aim for a moment when you and your boss aren’t swamped or stressed. You don’t want that extra stress seeping into your conversation. Monday might be a good pick since studies suggest2 it is the least stressful workday.
  • Do request a meeting. If the feedback is significant, consider scheduling a dedicated time to discuss it rather than catching your boss off-guard. This gives you both a chance to prepare for the conversation mentally.
  • Make sure you have enough time. Don’t cram a ten-minute meeting into a crack in the calendar. You want to ensure the meeting feels spacious, so there’s no time-stress. This research article3 suggests 5 minutes for brief feedback, 5-20 minutes for formal feedback, and 15-30 minutes for major feedback.


  • Don’t ambush. Refrain from surprising your boss with this conversation when you don’t know where they are in their day or how much time you have for the discussion.
  • Don’t use public channels. Places like team meetings, group emails, or Slack channels are inappropriate for providing personalized feedback to your boss. It will make the conversation less effective and may create unnecessary drama.
  • Don’t give feedback in front of anyone else. Unless it’s part of a feedback-specific meeting, don’t give feedback in front of another colleague, clients, or senior leaders.
  • Don’t bring it up during a crisis. Choose a time that’s not in the heat of a work emergency or high-stress period, if possible. High stress can make the conversation cloudier and make your boss less able to hear what you need to share.

If you’d like support not just giving feedback but dealing with some of the more challenging people in your workplace, you might enjoy this free goodie.

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Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.

I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

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Share your intention to offer feedback

Before diving into the feedback, please take a moment to explain why you’re bringing it up. 

Sharing your underlying intention helps to frame the conversation in a positive light and reassures your boss that your goal is constructive. 

This will help disarm your boss and make them less defensive because they will think, “Sam is not trying to harm me or cause problems; they are bringing this up because they want the best for themselves and the team.”

Some possible intentions might be:

  • To improve team efficiency
  • To make a more enjoyable workplace environment for everyone
  • To foster open communication
  • To get something off your chest to feel more connected to your boss and the team

Action Step: Before giving your feedback, take a moment and contemplate the question: “What positive intentions do I have behind giving this feedback?”

Focus on what’s possible instead of what’s wrong.

Adopt a positive, solution-oriented approach. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what can be done to improve the situation. 

This means steering the conversation away from blame or criticism and towards constructive outcomes. Pointing out flaws can put people on the defensive and make it harder for them to hear what you’re saying. 

Aim to discuss actionable steps to rectify the issue at hand or prevent it from happening.

For example, instead of:

“Our team meetings are always disorganized, affecting our productivity.” 

You could suggest:

“I’ve noticed our team meetings could be more structured, which could help us be more efficient. What if we implemented an agenda to use our time better?” 

This reframing moves the conversation from a critique of what’s wrong to a collaborative exploration of how to improve things.

As a bonus, when you focus on solutions, it not only makes it easier for your boss to hear your feedback but also makes you seem like a proactive problem-solver.

Action Step: Before your meeting, try the following process:

  • Write down what the feedback is that you want to give your boss.
    • E.g., “Our meetings go way too long.”
  • Then, write down why this is a problem.
    • “These meetings are causing everyone to use time unnecessarily, which means we get less work done.”
  • Then, write down what your desired situation is
    • “I want our meetings to be half as long to free up more time.”
  • Once you have the desire, frame it in a way that would benefit everyone.
    • “If our meetings are more efficient, we can all get back more time.”
  • Then, write an idea that would help facilitate your desire.
    • “If we start each meeting with an agenda, it might get through our topics more efficiently and help us save time.”

And voila! Can’t you imagine how it’d be easier for your boss to receive feedback that includes a solution like this?

Use specific examples to support your points.

General statements can come off as vague and unsubstantiated and can easily be dismissed.

But if you refer to specific examples, you’re grounding the feedback in reality. 

This helps give your boss a clearer picture of what you’re talking about. 

For instance, instead of saying: 

“I feel like our meetings are often ineffective.” 

You could say:

“In last week’s team meeting, we went into that whole tangent about the TV show Peaky Blinders, which made it hard to understand our next steps.”

These researchers4 suggest that it’s ideal to give your feedback as soon after the event as possible.

Action Step: When giving feedback, weave it through the SBI Model5, which stands for Situation-Behavior-Impact.

  • Situation: Start by describing the specific context or setting where the behavior occurred. This sets the stage for your feedback and allows your boss to understand what you’re referring to.

“In last week’s team meeting…”

  • Behavior: Next, identify the specific behavior that you observed. Be as detailed and objective as possible to paint a clear picture.

“…I noticed that the discussion was dominated by just a couple of team members, leaving little room for others to contribute.”

  • Impact: Finally, explain the effect this behavior had on you, the team, or the project. This clarifies why the feedback is essential and what’s at stake if the issue still needs to be addressed.

“…As a result, we missed out on valuable input from some of our quieter team members and didn’t fully explore alternative solutions.”

Invite dialogue

Feedback should be a two-way street. After presenting your points, encourage your boss to share their thoughts and perspectives. 

This shows that you value their opinion and opens the door for a constructive conversation rather than a one-sided critique.

Action Step: After sharing your feedback, ask, “How did that land for you?” And give your boss space to share everything they need to.

Follow up

Schedule a time to revisit the feedback. This shows your commitment to improving the situation and provides an opportunity to evaluate any changes that have been implemented. 

A simple “Can we check in on this in a couple of weeks?” can go a long way. 

Plus, the knowledge that this is a thread you’ll return to can create some accountability for change.

Action Step: At the end of the conversation, ask if you can keep a pulse on this topic in your next 1-on-1 or if your boss would like to schedule a short check-in call a few weeks out.

The 5 Types of Upward Feedback

Giving your boss feedback can be complex, but understanding the types of feedback you can offer simplifies the process. 

It’s kind of like if you’re giving a speech at a wedding; it can be helpful to know before you start writing it if you’re going to deliver a lighthearted and funny speech or a sincere and heartwarming speech. This decision will frame your approach and guide your writing process.

Below are several categories of feedback. As you’re reading, see which one aligns with your situation.

Positive reinforcement

This is about acknowledging and reinforcing behaviors or decisions that had a positive impact. Positive reinforcement helps to build a strong rapport and encourages the continuation of these good practices. 

Example: “I appreciated how you led last week’s brainstorming session. You included and encouraged everyone. I think it was good for the culture, and also, we came across some awesome new ideas.”

Action Step: What’s something your boss has done recently that you appreciated? Make an effort to tell them!

Developing the managerial relationship

This type of feedback pertains to how you’d like to be managed. 

You may need more autonomy, or you could benefit from more frequent check-ins. 

A manager-employee relationship does have its intimacy. If the relationship feels healthy and thriving, it makes work wayyy more enjoyable. But if the relationship is tense or disempowering, then you will probably relate hard to this classic ’90s reference:

Being clear about your work style and needs can help your boss manage you in a way that feels good for both of you.

Example: I’ll give a personal example. 

I met with my manager and mentioned that I was starting to feel anxious and insecure about how much constructive feedback I received.

My manager received this with grace and thoughtfully offered to make an effort to layer in some more positive feedback alongside constructive feedback. 

This solution works great for me. Because while I genuinely love hearing how to improve, it can also help support my self-esteem to listen to what I’m doing well.

Action Step: In your next 1-on-1 with your boss, consider voicing how you like being managed. Here are a few considerations:

  • Do you want more or less autonomy?
  • Would you like more guidance?
  • Could you use more constructive feedback?
  • Would you like more praise?
  • Do you want more or fewer check-ins?
  • Do you want more mentorship?
  • How’s your workload, work-life balance, and burnout?

These are also the conversations where you can review your responsibilities, ask for a raise, or get help setting up a performance improvement plan.

Constructive criticism

This type of feedback is aimed at pointing out areas where improvement is needed but in a constructive manner. 

It’s crucial to be specific, to focus on the behavior rather than the person, and, whenever possible, to suggest a solution. 

Example: “I noticed we often run over time in team meetings, making it hard to manage the rest of my day. Would it be possible to set a timer to help us stay on track?”

Process and big-picture suggestions

Sometimes, feedback isn’t about behavior but processes, workflows, and direction. Offering insights into how operations could be more efficient can be incredibly valuable. 

With this type of feedback, you are putting on your manager’s hat and seeing how you might improve the work system.

When offering this type of feedback, presenting it as an offer can be helpful. Such as, “I had an idea on how we might be able to hit our goals even more effectively; would you be open to hearing it?”

Rather than just giving your supervisor advice they didn’t agree to hear, presenting it this way can prevent them from becoming defensive and feeling like you’re stepping on their toes.

This reduces the chance that your boss will respond to your feedback like this:

Example: “Implementing a project management tool could streamline our team’s workflow and improve communication.”

Action Step: What changes would you make if you and your manager switched roles, and it was on you to reach the company goals? Would you shift the strategy at all?

Sharing emotional impact

Sometimes, incidents at work can cause an emotional impact, leaving you hurt or upset. 

It might not be anyone’s fault. But if you felt like your boss shut you down in a meeting, and you left feeling withdrawn, this will undoubtedly affect your relationship with each other moving forward until you clear the air.

The more open the relationship, the more trust you can feel.

In these cases, feedback can be a form of emotional expression to share how specific actions or words have affected you personally.

Example: “In today’s team meeting, I felt disrespected and hurt when my ideas were dismissed without discussion. I don’t assume anyone was trying to shut me down. But I notice I’m now feeling more reluctant to share my ideas in the future. I don’t know where to go, but this felt important to share.”

Is It Worth Giving My Boss or Manager Feedback?

It’s worth giving feedback because open communication is the cornerstone of any successful professional relationship. Your voice can bring about fundamental, meaningful changes that improve your day-to-day work life and contribute to a more effective, harmonious team environment.

Plus, the more you can honestly voice your concerns, challenges, and complicated emotions, the more empowered you will feel.  

Let’s explore three common fears that might prevent people from giving upward feedback.

Fear of retaliation

The most significant concern many employees have is that their feedback might not be welcome and could result in some form of retaliation—from missing out on promotions to experiencing an uncomfortable work environment. 

This fear can be extreme if there isn’t a strong feedback culture.

Actionable Tip: Test the waters with more minor issues to gauge your boss’s openness to feedback. They may be open to hearing about more significant problems if they handle little feedback well. 

If your boss doesn’t handle the feedback well, make space for their emotional reaction, whether frustration or defensiveness. Then, when they feel heard, clarify your intention and your point if it was misunderstood.

Job security concerns

Tied closely to the fear of retaliation, some employees worry that giving feedback, especially negative or critical, could jeopardize their job security. 

The thought is that being seen as a “complainer” or a “problem” could make them more expendable when cutbacks occur.

Actionable Tip: Frame the feedback in a constructive, non-accusatory manner. If you focus on how the change will benefit the entire team or the project, you will become a problem-solver instead of a problem-maker.

Concerns about relationship dynamics

Giving feedback is often seen as a top-down activity, so reversing the flow can seem unnatural and uncomfortable. You might fear that offering feedback will negatively alter your relationship with your boss, making day-to-day interactions awkward.

Actionable Tips: Aim to build a rapport with your boss outside of the feedback context. If you have a solid working relationship, giving and receiving feedback becomes a natural part of your interactions. 

Also, balance negative and positive feedback to avoid creating a confrontational atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Give Feedback To Your Boss

What is the importance of giving feedback to your boss?

The importance of giving feedback to your boss lies in fostering a communicative and productive work environment. Open dialogue can improve working relationships and performance for both parties involved. Plus, a successful feedback conversation can boost morale.

How can I overcome my fear of providing feedback to my superior?

To overcome your fear of providing critical feedback, consider testing the waters with more minor issues first to gauge your boss’s openness to feedback. Additionally, prepare in advance to articulate your points clearly and constructively. It can also help to view this as practice in professional development since giving feedback is one of the most vital communication and leadership skills.

What are some common challenges when giving feedback to a boss?

Common challenges when giving feedback to a boss include fear of retaliation, concerns about job security, and uncertainty about how to present your feedback. Preparation and a strong understanding of your intent can help mitigate these challenges.

Are there different types of feedback that I should be aware of when talking to my boss?

Yes, there are different types of feedback and, thus, different templates for giving feedback. Some of the common types are positive reinforcement, constructive criticism, and process or workflow suggestions. Understanding these categories helps you tailor your message to help you give effective feedback.

How should I approach my boss to initiate a feedback conversation?

To initiate a feedback conversation, choose a suitable time and place where you both can talk without distractions. Be upfront about your intention for the discussion to set a constructive tone.

What should I do if my boss reacts negatively to my feedback?

If your boss reacts negatively, first acknowledge their feelings without becoming defensive. Then, seek to clarify your points and intentions, reiterating that your goal is constructive improvement and honest feedback. 

How can I use the feedback I receive from my boss to improve my performance?

To improve your performance using your boss’s feedback, first identify actionable items that align with the criticism or suggestions provided. Then, incorporate these action items into your work routine, and consider seeking follow-up feedback to gauge your progress. This will help you do a great job with your responsibilities. 

Takeaways On How To Give Feedback To Your Boss

Giving feedback to your boss can be nerve-wracking. But there are times when it’s vital to do so. If you need to give your manager feedback, remember these tips:

  • Choose the right time and place to ensure privacy and spaciousness
  • Share your intention for the feedback so your boss knows you are coming from a positive place
  • Focus on what’s possible instead of what’s wrong to help create possibilities and solutions
  • Use specific examples to anchor the conversation
  • Invite dialogue and hear how it lands for your boss
  • Follow up in a week or a month to see how things have gone since then

Best of luck delivering this feedback; you got this!

And if you’d like more ideas on developing your relationship with your boss, you might appreciate this list of 140 questions to ask your boss.

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.
I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

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