6 Ways to Give Feedback to Your Boss and Coworkers

Last Updated Sep 21, 2010 7:30 PM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I recently started a new job at an amazing company. It's a really open culture and it feels as if my opinion counts more here than it has before.
My boss often asks for my feedback on how things are going. I have a ton of ideas that I think would be really helpful to my boss and our team. If I share too much feedback privately will my ideas simply make him or colleagues look good and keep me in the shadows? Will sharing too much feedback hold me back?
Feedback is one of my favorite subjects to wax on about. But unless you're careful, feedback is just talk.

Here are 5 ways to make sure your feedback advances your career.
  1. Make sure you know what you are talking about. Presumably, you had some knowledge and skills that your manager thought would be beneficial to the company. That's why he hired you in the first place. But, you do need to learn what is going on before you start telling everyone how they should change. Sure, it may have worked very well when people did X at your previous company, but before you suggest your new company does X, make sure it's possible. The new company's company's computer systems, for instance, may not be equipped to handle it.
  2. Give more positive than negative feedback. Often times, people only want to tell others what they are doing wrong. This will not win you friends and respect. People won't say,"Gee, Stephanie is so smart! She finds all the problems." They will say, "Stephanie is such a whiner. Always complaining about things." Your ideas may be fabulous, but so are other peoples'. Make sure you point out the positive at least three times for each change you suggest.
  3. Don't just talk: Implement. You're concerned that your great ideas will make others look good, rather than making you look good? Well, that happens when you sit on your heiny spouting ideas and other people carry them out. Pick a couple of your fabulous ideas and implement them. If they are too complex to implement on your own, write up your business plan before you start talking about them.
  4. Your job IS to make your boss look good. If the company has a nice, positive feeling about it, and feedback is encouraged, then stop worrying. Your job (even if your company stinks) is to make your boss look good. Smart bosses want smart people working for them, because it makes them look successful. Successful bosses get promoted. Promoted bosses leave vacancies. And who goes into those vacancies? Often the employee who helped the boss look good in the first place.
  5. Accept feedback from others graciously. Presumably, you aren't the only one who is encouraged to speak your mind. Others will be providing feedback to you (unfortunately, mostly negative because a lot of people think feedback=describing what you're doing wrong. You need to accept and consider their feedback. (Unless it's from your boss, you don't have to implement. And even then, there are things you can do when the boss is wrong.) When someone tells you a way to improve your project, listen and ask questions. You just may learn something.
  6. Don't expect others to always implement what you suggest. You're not the boss, you're an employee and a coworker. Don't get all bent out of shape when your suggestions are ignored. Remember, you'll be ignoring some other people's suggestions as well.
Photo by Steve Rhodes, Flickr cc 2.0

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