Giving Upward Feedback

Upward feedback is feedback from subordinates to managers. It can be structured, as part of an organizational process or 360 assessment, or it can be unstructured, where it is delivered spontaneously.

The premise of receiving upward feedback is that you are only as good of a leader as your followers think you are. From an employee perspective, giving upward feedback is a proactive way of improving your job, your boss’s job, and even your organization. If leaders do not know how they are perceived, organizational performance will suffer—yet, the higher one’s position in an organization, the less honest feedback a leader receives.

It can be difficult to give your boss feedback. Here are some quick tips for giving effective upward feedback:

  • Consider if they are open to feedback.
  • Frame the issue in terms of business impact.
  • Deliver feedback with good intentions.
  • Consider if there is trust in your relationship.
  • Provide suggestions and offer to work on solutions.
  • The times your boss is most likely to be receptive to feedback are during times of change. For example, when working on a new project or with a new client.
  • Prepare for the possible reactions you may receive and practice your responses.

Is Your Company Prepared?

  1. Is feedback part of the culture?
  2. Are leaders trained on how to receive feedback?
  3. Is there a formal upward feedback process in place?
  4. How do you know feedback is effective at your company?

Best Practices

“A lot of people do not give that upward feedback because it is easier to do nothing, try harder, or hope for a better outcome. But you have to look at the long-term implications of some of those choices.”
~Kim Kochurka, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana

“When you have feedback, you have to own that—they are your perceptions and your feelings and you have to be willing to own that resolution.”
~Emma Oberdieck, YUM! Brands

“Your immediate job is to help your boss achieve outcomes. If those outcomes are being compromised or the performance of your team is at stake, you have a responsibility to bring the cause to your boss’s attention. But, your boss has to be receptive.”
~Kim Kochurka, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana

For a webinar recording on this topic, please check out the HR Professionals Webinar Series

Photo thanks to Dimitris Papazimouris

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