How to Talk About Your Boss Without Talking Bad About Them

Giving and receiving feedback is important. However, many of us are on more of the receiving rather than the giving side, especially if we are managed by someone. We usually listen and they talk. However, it is just as important that you as a receiver be in a position to provide your feedback as well. Here are a few tips to be prepared for when your manager says…


“Is there anything that you have for me?”

First rule of thumb is to never be in a position where you don’t have something to say about the topic being discussed.

Head nodding doesn’t count.

Oftentimes it can be tough especially if it is not necessarily positive feedback. But you have to have something to say and it is all about how you frame the message whether it is positive or negative or both.

Here are a few scenarios in which you may be asked for feedback from your boss and how you may think about responding so that you walk away with a feeling of confidence and control of your career.

During your performance review: The end of the year is drawing near. It’s time for your manager to start (let’s hope) to begin thinking about capturing some final thoughts to share with you about how you performed this year. This being in preparation for when your organization designates the appropriate time to share such feedback. Most of us dread those times – it’s often one of the most intense moments in your career, but it doesn’t have to be. Most of us deep down inside know how we have performed throughout the year. It’s not to say that we don’t get blindsided from time to time (which is a topic for another time), but we have at least an idea. So this means you being prepared by make it a dialog versus a one-sided conversation. Be reflective of your achievements and insert where your manager helped you and where you would have liked a little more help. Or better yet, ask them what they would have done differently based on what you are sharing with them. If your manager is savvy, s/he will be appreciative of the thoughts.

After you’ve completed a project or major assignment: Convey your gratitude for the opportunity, but have ready your reflection of how things went as well as suggestions as to what could have worked better and who could have helped or provided you with additional support. More importantly be prepared to provide recommendations for your manager to continue to offer the support you need on future projects.

You didn’t get the job you really wanted. You were passed over for that key opportunity that would have accelerated your career and felt that your manager didn’t support you. Tell them. But tell them in a manner that acknowledges you are disappointed and ask them what you or both of you need to do collectively to ensure that next time you get their support for an opportunity when it comes along again. Feeling disappointed or sharing your thoughts with others about your disappointment that can’t help you move forward, never gets you anywhere. Yes, it’s good to have a sounding board, but talk to the people in your organization that thought you weren’t ready for the opportunity and your manager is usually the first one to start with.

Your manager wants to know how things are going in your job: Most times our response is that we say that all is going well, when in reality it isn’t. We maybe are bored; not challenged; or even not as clear on what they really want – the list is limitless. We don’t communicate our concerns for fear of retribution. Yes, it does take courage to tell your manager when things aren’t going well in your job or day-to-day responsibilities. But there is a way to do this. Tell them what isn’t going well and what you see as an opportunity to fix it, change it or just get rid of it. Maybe even try a new approach. The key is to never go in with a problem that you don’t have a solution for or new approach and what you would like to have happen concerning your job is no different.

Just how they are doing as your manager: Yes, such managers do exist. The savvy manager will always ask you for feedback as it relates to their performance. Managers want to improve just like you. If you have a manager that doesn’t, my recommendation is that you find another one. All managers want to be known as an outstanding leader. They all know that they can get a “hallway reputation” where people want to work for them or they don’t. Who wants to be known as a manager that no one wants to work for or be associated with? I’ve never met a manager that doesn’t revel in the fact they are known as a developer of talent or an outstanding leader. So be prepared to share the highlights of things you were impressed with that helped you do your job better but also the things that got in the way. In other words, what they could have done better to support you in your day-to-day work responsibilities. You don’t have to wait for an anonymous survey or a sophisticated company feedback tool to be transparent and sincere with your leader. It’s not about what you always say, but how you say it. Think especially about the “how.”


Your boss does want your feedback and it does take courage. It takes more courage to give feedback, but s/he needs it just as much as you do for your success. Communicating with those in your organization and sharing your perspectives and feedback to them as well as about them is important, so always be prepared with your thoughts in a professional manner.

Francine’s Final Career Tip

Feedback for your boss is really about you. It’s about helping you and ensuring you get the support you need to be successful.


I am Francine Parham. I write and speak about career success. Also I invest my time in other’s professional success. You only have to ask me. I am the creator of The Career Pocket Guide Series ™ with my first book, The Ultimate Career Pocket Guide (Amazon, 2016). My book provides practical tips and insights serving as your basic “go-to resource” guiding you on the topics that you face every day that need a practical solution. Receive a free chapter of my book at

This article originally posted in Francine Parham’s Career Blog

Photo Credit: Alan Levine








How to Recover When Your Boss Shakes Your Confidence

I was once told in my career,

“Francine, it’s not about the mistake you made, but how you recover.”

Believe it or not, these words came from a leader that I loathed. This was my direct manager that at the time had control not only over my performance, but my career.

Let’s call this person, “Pat.”

Pat treated everyone poorly, but had keen insight and was very successful in the organization that I worked for at the time.

I felt that I could not win at anything that I did when it came to Pat’s treatment of me. I dreaded the conversations we had and more importantly, I dreaded the feedback. Our communication was always me listening and Pat talking.

Could you say, a horrible boss? My response would be and emphatic, “YES!” It probably still holds true today wherever Pat maybe in the workforce.

But as I went through those two years of hell, I learned a valuable lesson. I would say a couple.

Here are some lessons I learned as I navigated through this situation that I share with individuals I talk with or events that I speak at:  

Lesson #1: I’ve heard the saying, “if you are going through hell, keep going.” I agree. But my one caveat is having a clear plan to get the hell out of the situation. Don’t just sit there and let it happen to you. It usually doesn’t get better. Your plan can be about moving to another part of your organization, finding a new manager or even leaving the company, but don’t let it get to a point where you have no options.

Lesson #2: Ensure that others in the organization can speak on your behalf in a positive manner. Are there other things that you are doing within the organization outside your function in which others can see you in action. More importantly see the good work that you do. If so, mobilize their commitment to ensure that they can speak on your behalf when needed. Get as many in your tribe as you can.

Lesson #3: Rather than take it, ask the person giving you the feedback, what would they have done differently. It is always easier to point at what went wrong. It is tougher to point out what went wrong and what are some recommendations to fix it or do it in a different or better way. Once I started asking Pat these questions, the tone of the conversations changed somewhat. Although I didn’t respect Pat as a leader, it signaled that I was paying attention and felt that there were some valuable insights that I could learn.

Lesson #4: Talk to others that have become before you. I did this. Pat had a reputation. I knew the people that had worked for Pat beforehand. I went to them and got their feedback. Not just about me and Pat’s behavior, but what did they do to make the business relationship between the two of them successful at that time. Also I wanted their candid feedback as to how they perceived what was going on. What did they know of me or think of me. Once again it helped me build my tribe of advocates.


Lesson  #5: I learned not to make excuses. Whether or not I believed what this person said to me or about me to others, I never made excuses in the organization. It wasn’t that I accepted my fate, quite the contrary. I just knew that whining would not get me anywhere. It would make me appear to be a victim and not the brand that I wanted to be labeled within my organization. I wanted to be perceived as a professional with the maturity to navigate and work through my issues which would help me to get the feedback I needed not only from Pat as my leader, but others.

Lesson #6: NEVER talk bad about the person you’re disagreeing with, especially if you’re seeking advice from their peers or individuals that think highly of them. It can backfire on you, especially if it gets back to them. If you choose to have those type conversations just be prepared if it does truly gets back to them. Unless you have a great deal of trust and confidence in the people you are speaking with about your manager, make sure you position your issues in a manner that is truthful and transparent as well as constructive. Bad-mouthing someone has never worked! It’s not useful for anyone involved and can often show a lack of maturity on your part.


Lesson #7: Your confidence will be restored. I thought my career was over as this was a very powerful and influential person. I didn’t fold up and my career flourished. As a matter of fact, the next job I earned after this one was actually a promotion within my same organization. So although you may think you’re doomed and you need to leave or you have no chance of success, you more than likely do.

Know that everyone you meet may not think you’re a star or like what you do or have done in the past as it relates to your career, but keep moving forward. You will end up in front of the right person eventually. Having a career is not easy, but how you not only recover but succeed, is the reward. Here’s to your success!

I am Francine Parham. I write and speak about career success and how you navigate successfully in your job. Also I invest my time in other’s professional success. I am the creator of The Career Pocket Guide Series ™ with my first book being, “The Ultimate Career Pocket Guide,” (Amazon, 2016). My book provides practical tips and insights serving as your basic “go-to resource,” guiding you on the topics that you face every day that need a practical solution. Receive the free chapter “When Discussing Your Career, It’s All About Framing and Positioning,” from my book, at

Photo Credit: Kim Tackett









Five People Every Professional Needs For Their Career to Succeed

“It takes a village.”

When it comes to your career, this is definitely true.

Savvy professionals know that being successful in any job or position involves having many individuals focused on their success, helping them achieve their career goals along the way. They know that no one builds a successful career alone.

Such professionals also know that having a mentor and/or sponsor is not only critical in today’s work world, but an imperative. There is nothing that replaces having such individuals on your career team. They are priceless.

But the savviest career professional knows it’s a little more to this.

It’s about a few others on their team, working on their behalf.

Such individuals may not have a great deal of political or organizational clout or even the ability to make change happen immediately, but they are just as valuable, if not more.

This is where many of us miss the mark as professionals.

We miss the opportunity to excel by forgetting these other individuals and placing all bets on a few people in the organization to help us. This can be a disaster waiting to happen and is risky.

Then we wonder what happened when that plum assignment was given to someone else or that next promotional opportunity passed us by. Well, maybe if maybe if we had a collective team working on our behalf, this may have not happened.

Determine if you have the right individuals helping you in achieving or maintaining your career aspirations. Take a moment to do an inventory as to who is currently helping you achieve your career goals and has helped you in the past.

Do you remember when you first joined your organization? There was someone that was able to explain things and how they worked including the people. Well as we become familiar with the organization, we often become less familiar with the person who was there at our beginning. We often forget that we need such people ongoing as we navigate throughout the organization. We need them all the time. I call them the Organizational Decoder. According to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop the Ball and Levo League Leadership Leader in a recent conversation with Sherry Sims, Founder of the Black Career Women’s Network, you need someone in your organization that has the ability to spell it out to you. Spelling out how the organization sees you, for example. This person will give you that unfiltered feedback. You may not like it, but consider it a gift. Obviously, it is up to you as to what you do with the feedback, but you’ll never say this individual didn’t honestly provide it to you.

Have you ever wondered why you weren’t on the path that you thought we were on? Better yet, wondering why no one told you that you were somewhat off? Trust me, there were individuals who saw what was happening and could have shared with you what they were seeing. More importantly help you get back on the right path. These are the Path Directors in your organization. They have seen what has happened to others many times before. They don’t have control over your career, but they can for sure point you in the right direction or serve as a guide as to where you should go or not, even who you maybe need to avoid.

Another key team member is the Off the Record Insider. Your relationship is all about trust. You trust them, but what is more important is that they trust you. They are in conversations for example in which you are not. They share with you unsolicited what they know can impact you. They often may not have the power to make any direct changes concerning your career, but they support you and are dedicated to your career success. Their way of supporting you is sharing with you what they know in a confidential manner.

Everyone knows what a connector does. Obviously such individuals bring people together, but do they bring the right people together specifically on your behalf? This is not just when you need to get something done, but a Purposeful Connector is always thinking about you. They not only connect you with people that you should know, but can actually help you achieve your goals even when you’re not expecting help or asking for it. These individuals are connected within your organization, as well as externally.

Finally, people often listen to respond. This person never responds. It may sound odd, but sometimes we just want someone within our organization to listen to us without judgement about our career choice or lack thereof. The conversation is just between the two of you. This is the Quiet Listener. This person understands and works within your company. But what is special about them is that you don’t have to take 30 minutes explaining what happened. They get what you are going through immediately and understand you. They don’t judge, take action or even give advice, they simply listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard. Having someone only listen to you helps you manage your thoughts. Also it protects you against your issue showing up in your communication to others in a way that could damage your career out of frustration.

Did any of any of these descriptions of people that you should have on your team sound familiar?

If not, you may want to think about this and enlist such individuals to help you with your career. To be successful you can’t do it alone.

It pays to have many in your corner committed to helping you achieve professional success.

I am Francine Parham. I write and speak about career success. Also I invest my time in other’s professional success. I am the creator of The Career Pocket Guide Series ™ with my first book, The Ultimate Career Pocket Guide (Amazon, 2016). My book provides practical tips and insights serving as your basic “go-to resource” guiding you on the topics that you face every day that need a practical solution. Receive a free chapter of my book at

Photo Credit: Craig Moe