Dealing With Vague Feedback - Part 1

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • What do I do when I get feedback?
  • Should I ask for more detail when I get feedback?
  • Should I follow up when I get feedback?

This guidance explains how to respond to vague feedback from your boss or others.

Many managers who say they give feedback to their people really don't. They give vague guidance like, "you need to open up more," or, "sometimes you're abrasive," or, "you need to be a leader." None of these is very helpful. What can we do when we get this kind of guidance from our boss?

[Note: this cast also applies to individual contributors, but it happens plenty to managers too, because for some directors, it's hard to be specific about managerial roles.]


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"other people in the office are saying"

Sorry about the repeat - computer's funky this morning.

"other people in the office are saying"

Oh thank you for this podcast - this subject has been vexing me for years. The comment / question I have is this: what to do when the boss comes to you and says, "You know, there are people in the office who are saying X about you." My last boss came to me a couple of times and started out like this. I took it to mean that she was telling me what they said so that I could give my side of the story - but through the course of the conversations I realized that it was third party feedback that she believed, and my telling my side of the story was perceived as not being receptive to her.

I work in the public sector and went through a three year long battle terminating an employee. I worked closely with our city attorney and went to many trainings run by employment lawyers advising that in the case of a discipline worthy behavior, I should demonstrate that I was getting everyone's side of the story before I made a conclusion rather than relying on third party feedback. As I understand it, this is all anticipating the employee invoking Laudermill rights later on in the process. Wrongful termination cases have been thrown out when an employee demonstrated they were not given a fair hearing.

In your opinion, are there scenarios where it isn't clear if the boss is giving feedback vs. doing an investigation for a subordinate to ask "Are you asking me for my side of the story?" or some version of that?

"other people in the office are saying"

Oh thank you for this podcast - this subject has been vexing me for years. The comment / question I have is this: what to do when the boss comes to you and says, "You know, there are people in the office who are saying X about you." My last boss came to me a couple of times and started out like this. I took it to mean that she was telling me what they said so that I could give my side of the story - but through the course of the conversations I realized that it was third party feedback that she believed, and my telling my side of the story was perceived as not being receptive to her.

I work in the public sector and went through a three year long battle terminating an employee. I worked closely with our city attorney and went to many trainings run by employment lawyers advising that in the case of a discipline worthy behavior, I should demonstrate that I was getting everyone's side of the story before I made a conclusion rather than relying on third party feedback. As I understand it, this is all anticipating the employee invoking Laudermill rights later on in the process. Wrongful termination cases have been thrown out when an employee demonstrated they were not given a fair hearing.

In your opinion, are there scenarios where it isn't clear if the boss is giving feedback vs. doing an investigation for a subordinate to ask "Are you asking me for my side of the story?" or some version of that?