Do NOT Give Feedback To Your Boss

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Can I give feedback to my boss?
  • Why can't I give feedback to my boss?
  • What if my boss asks for feedback?

This guidance describes how and why NOT to give feedback to your boss.

The most frequently asked question at our conferences is easy: How do I use the feedback model to give feedback to my boss? It's one of our favorite times, because we get to be so clear in our guidance, so clear in our denunciation. We've probably said it a hundred times. But we keep getting asked. So, let's make sure everyone knows.

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Hope it's not too late!

Thanks for the information.  I hope it isn't too late for me to change course with my boss. I now know how I will respond to the annual feedback survey's HR compels us to complete each year for my boss. All in the name of continuous improvement. It's frustrating because I have learned so much from these casts and I see areas that my boss could improve upon. However, I see that I should have been considering the political ramifications of giving my boss feedback. I can tell my feedback has impacted my relationship with my boss. I just thought I was doing the right thing.

endangering behavior and no feedback?

In recent days I felt to give some feedback to my boss. He from my understanding did something, which 100% for sure is not commanders interest. That behavior could have interrupted the business relationship to one of our key-suppliers / partners.

As I'm quite close to key persons at that supplier, they privately confirmed my judgement of the situation (without asking them to comment). 

Now I feel I have following options:

  1. doing nothing
    - risking the same behavior of my boss again (not unlikely), but then for sure spoiling the whole business relationship with our key supplier. (not commanders interest)
  2. throwing my boss under the bus at his boss
    - treason is loved, but nobody loves a traitor... 
  3. in a "Silent minute" giving my boss a hint of his "misconduct" (call it feedback) ... it is rather a careful clarification of the situation, as I do not intend to ask for change of future behavior .... that conclusion he has to draw for himself (hopefully).

Especially in this case I'm wondering if I understood the feedback model correctly. Nevertheless the cast again was an eye-opener.

But if you really have to...

 Hi guys...  Listening to your cast from the Czech Republic.  Incredibly useful stuff and I'm sharing with my colleagues in a global IT organization often.  

This was an interesting topic and really well argued.  All through the cast I was thinking...'"what about 360s" - then you read my mind - thanks!

I do think there does come a point where one might need to give feedback to his/her boss even using the feedback model.  I had this once many years back where a manager of mine was being plainly and repeatedly disrespectful.   I was 3 months into the job and I had to let him know.  I did this privately, well after an 'incident' when nerves were up, and in the 'here's what happens...' language (surprising - this was over 15 years ago).  I think I've only done this once in my career but it was necessary. this case, it worked.  My manager continued to be tough but changed his style with me.  

Having shared that story, I do agree completely with the principle of this cast and thank you guys for raising awareness to this in such a clear way.  I'd give the same advice to others...but there are rare cases where feedback must be given.  Once in 15 years is likely par for the course.  

Cheers from Prague


Agree but...

Agree you can't give MT feedback to your boss. But it doesn't mean you can't give some feedback. My suggestion (about to be crushed by the forum I suppose!) is to say something like, "When you do X, I'd prefer it if you did Y with me." Now, that has to be just right and it is playing with fire potentially. Something like if your boss gives a deadline of Friday but then stops by everyday to check on progress, maybe say something like, "Maybe we could work out some interim milestones and I could send you a write up on Wednesday or meet you for 5 minutes to give you an update."  It can't be big stuff like "Instead of telling us the 2012 strategy I'd like it if we had a brainstorming session first." So small subtle things only. And nothing that would call into question his/her judgment. And of course, they could always say no :)


Bug in the site

I would have expected under the related content links would be links to the apology casts...and the resume tools and casts...and the interviewing casts.

What happened!?



why not follow the peer feedback model?

I must confess I don't understand one of the assumptions of the argument presented in the cast. Why would one end feedback to a boss with a "think you could change that?"-type phrase? The phrase implies some power over the recipient and therefore is not used even in the peer fedback model, much less so in a hypothetical boss feedback situation. On the other hand, information along the lines  "when you do X here's what happens: ..., thought you might want to know" seems to be much less dangerous...


Kind of hilarious that despite Mark and Mike's emphatic and even somewhat hysterical insistance that YOU CAN'T GIVE FEEDBACK TO YOUR BOSS, people are still trying to figure out ways to do just that.  Mark even said this would happen in the cast.  Talk about knowing your audience...

Different Spin

Try this thought.  If you find yourself in a situation where you think its better to give your boss feedback then keep your mouth shut then try this.

She is not your boss, she is "the" organization.  She speaks and acts for them and they communicate their needs and intentions through her.

In that context it does not ever makes sense to give your boss feedback?  To try and change the behavior?


Different Spin


I agree with your comment. Many times we have to be very careful to give boss feedback. I preferred to say nothing, because many companies, they usually only hear the boss comments, not ours. Furthermore, that comments can affect our lives on the job forever.


How to provide suggestions and praise

 We can't provide feedback to our boss. Fine. No problem. Got it. Question - how can we constructively provide suggestions and praise? What's the "right" way to do that? 

Feedback to your boss

Again, thanks for another well timed, helpful podcast.  As someone in the middle -- I have a direct below me who thinks she can give me "constructive criticism" and a boss that I've like to give feedback to (but bite my tongue) -- I can only reiterate the podcast: Do NOT give feedback to your boss.

When my direct does it, all I can think is "Really, are you that foolish?" I'm not taking what she says personally, if there is something that I can improve, I will. But I become deeply concerned when directs give me feedback, because it is always delivered in a way that would get them fired by anyone else.

This week I finally had a conversation with one of my directs about respect. She had no idea that her behavior (not just feedback) communicated a lack of respect and was causing her problems not just with me but across the organization. Again, this is not about me personally; Professionally lack of respect impacts both of our abilities to do our jobs effectively. Giving your boss feedback is not respectful.

For mmcleod and others looking for the "right way to praise your boss": the only feedback you can give your boss is "Thank you." Anything else comes off as if you don't understand your roles and relationships in the organization.

I recently reorganized our project management process: When my directs talk about how the new system is helpful (or not) to them, that is valuable information to me. When they try to praise me for setting up the new processes, it hurts their credibility. I'm not that insecure, I don't need my directs to flatter me, it only communicates misunderstanding what it means to be a professional. And if/when I buy into their flattery, I'm not being professional.

If you have a good boss and they are doing O3s with you, then they are getting to know you and what they need to know to manage you well. No feedback required.

Contradictory advice?

Can someone reconcile what appears to be contradicting advice in podcasts?

I have been practicing the routine of requesting feedback from my directs as advised in the podcast:  How to Ask for Basic Feedback (Mar 2, 2007). I have also recommended MT to my directs in developing their managerial skills. One of my directs just listened to the cast: Do NOT give feedback to your boss. He points out that this cast advises you never give feedback to your boss even if the boss says it's welcome and okay (which I have been doing).

Mark and Mike - in particular I'm interested in how you all reconcile that. Open to others opinions of course.

It's not a big problem as I have been pleased that my directs HAVE been providing me feedback both affirming and readjusting. I have consistently been neutral in the reception and said thank you. Some of the feedback has led to changes in my practice.

I also posted this question in the forums. Hope it's okay to cross post.


The Cost of Being Right

Mike and Mark,

I listened to this podcast in it's entirety.

You are easy on the ears, great production, well done.

There is a cost of being right, are you willing to pay it?

Thank you in advance,



I am new to MT but after listening to their basics podcasts I intend to institute their Trinity program as it does appear to provide an excellent foundation to cultivating directs.

That being said, as with any paradigm there are limitations and this podcast happens to identify one of them: these tools are intended to be used in today's work setting; it is not intended to instigate change of corporate culture in ways that could empower people to push upwards.

These are powerful tools and I for one am grateful that they are provided publically. However, as with any tool their are limitations. Just because an evangelist tells you that their will be naysayers doesn’t mean that the contrarians are wrong.