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








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