Hey Guys! I’m new to your podcast and I’m going back to the beginning to try and catch up. I love the podcasts so far and I am in the process of implimenting many of the items you talk about.

I just finished your podcast on feedback and I have a question that I didn’t hear addressed. I work for a small company and I routinely work with people that report to my direct reports. When I see something that requires feedback, is it appropriate for me to give feedback to this person, or should I give feedback to their boss (my direct report) and let them give feedback to the individual?

If I do give feedback to the person, what is the best method to inform their boss (my direct report)? Should it be done as feedback as well or would it be better discussed in an O3 meeting?

Thanks in advance.

Love the show!


Brent's picture

I'm not Mark or Mike, but off the top of my head, I'd suggest that you give the feedback to the target employee's manager, and let the manager talk directly to the employee.

More specifically, I wouldn't give Manager Tools-style Feedback, [i]per se[/i], I'd say something like, "Hey, Todd, I noticed something about Ed. When we were in that meeting, Ed did X and Y. When he does that, A, B, and C happens. Could you give Ed some feedback about that, please?"

Then again, I'm a novice manager, and I've never been in the situation JimS describes. I'm very interested in Mark/Mike's recommendation.

MikeK's picture

I'd recommend that if it is something that affects the performance of your direct reports, then give the feedback to that 3rd party directly as well. Feedback is about behaviour, nothing else so its hard to argue against stating something about their behaviour and how it is affecting the performance of others.

I'd also inform the other manager in a suitable way for them. Actually, you should discuss it with them first and let them know that you will give feedback wherever neccessary even if its his reports.

I'm in a small company though so any feedback is good regardless of rank. Can't see why it'd be different elsewhere (larger firm) though...

I do this with one of peers at work, we each feedback each others' directs and inform each other and it simply reinforces the feedback model to everyone and makes it even more common, instead of "My way of doing things"...
Just my $0.02.

mauzenne's picture
Admin Role Badge

I think this question comes up only because a lot of folks make too much of feedback. It's just feedback! I give feedback to my employees, my managers, my vendors, my children, a lot of customer service folks ;-) , my wife (this is a bit more tricky) and just about anyone I interact with. It's NO BIG DEAL. Feedback is NOT an ass-chewing or anything even remotely resembling it.

Jim, from your note, I didn't get the sense you were telling the individual WHAT to do; you're simply saying, "hey, when you do THIS, these are the results I see". Again, your just sharing with him. He can choose to do something about it or not. Now, if you're trying to direct his behavior, that's a different story ... but for now, you're just giving feedback ... to him ... directly.

Would I feel compelled to share the feedback with his manager? Nope. Until the issue becomes one that I need to address with the manager (i.e., it's either feedback for her or her organization), then I'd feel no need. I wouldn't hide the fact that I gave feedback either; it's possible that the conversation could come up in casual conversation, but just as likely not. If you're giving effective feedback, you're doing it ALL DAY LONG. How could you possibly relay all that to your subordinate managers?

To the extent you model the behavior of frequent feedback (both adjusting and confirming), the issue will disappear completely off the map.


P.S. You'll also note on the latest podcast (Receiving Feedback About Your Directs) that one of the steps is to encourage the person giving you feedback on your direct to give the feedback to the person directly in the future. More feedback is always better.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Below is a copy and paste from another post asking the same question on the site. You asked an identical question.

Mike makes an important point about feedback being no big deal. I think this is the single biggest drawback to the adoption of feedback as a truly powerful tool: MANAGERS ARE AFRAID OF GIVING IT.


It's absolutely appropriate to give feedback to your directs' directs. As a general rule, since feedback is just about behavior, and not the person, and is better given as close to the behavior (effective or ineffective) as possible, if you see a "skip" do something you want to talk with them about, by all means give the feedback. I can't think of a situation where I didn't give the feedback.

What is ENORMOUSLY UNPROFESSIONAL in my opinion is saying nothing to the skip, and then either mentioning it in passing, or worse, giving feedback to the boss. (Sorry, Brent, but this is from the old post, and fundamentally contradicts your recommendation.)

Now, the question is what to do about the role issue. Your question implies that the manager in between is being left out. What about that?

Well, THAT depends.

My RULE is to share ANY AFFIRMING feedback to a skip with my direct. Positive feedback is so rare, managers need to hear about good stuff. I don't tell the skip I'm going to, I just do it. And I hope the manager is smart enough to then give positive feedback AGAIN to the skip (their direct.) As in, "When you do X, and Mark notices and gives you positive feedback and then shares it with me, it makes my day. It makes you look good, which helps the team, and yeah, me too. But it also means we have more credibility when we may need it, and makes my job of getting you what you want from the org that much easier."

And, if I know that my manager has made a difference with the skip, rather than just sharing what I said, I then also make it AFFIRMING feedback for the boss, since making their team better is a core issue for them with me.

What about adjusting feedback? A little different, some nuance here.

If it's minor, I don't say anything to the boss. And, I TELL THE SKIP what he probably already knows (feedback to me is like breathing, and so what's said here stays here (just like our breath)) that I'm not going to say anything to my direct. I have learned (and hopefully you know you are not the only exception on the planet) that if your directs fear you more than you realize, your skips are often PANICKED around you. If you don't tell them you're not going to say anything, they will assume you did, and wait for three weeks to hear it delivered poorly by your direct.

If it's worth letting the boss know (some guidance below), then I just tell them that I gave some adjusting feedback. (Remember, feedback is like breathing...) I make sure they know it, but I don't make it a big deal.

If it's bigger than that, I'll share the situation with the boss (by repeating the feedback I gave), and talk about what I might do in their situation. And then I leave it up to them, using this as an opportunity to see what they do and coach them, potentially, while they coach the skip. I have done a fair bit of coaching on how to coach.

My rule of thumb, which is NOT infallible, for letting the boss know, is: is this a core behavior for the role, or for this person's development (higher standard for higher performers wanting more), or something my direct is coaching on/working with the skip on.

If it's really big, and I think the boss bears some burden, I'll share what happened, and give my direct some feedback.

If in doubt, and I haven't said to the skip that I'm NOT going to not say anything, I let the boss know.

Give those underwriters and claims handlers feedback. In fact, when you do work with them, take a minute or two at the end of a session to summarize and look for 2-3 bits of feedback every time. They'll love the candor. It may be counter-cultural, but it's pro performance and pro-productivity.

Great question - We get it all the time!


may's picture

I worked a lot with cross-functional teams, and I often give feedback directly to the team members since a lot of time their bosses don't really work as closely with them as I do.

I have a few different circumstances, which I usually deal with in different manners. Would love to hear your comments on how I could make it better. ... And advice on how I should handle it in #2 and 3.

1. Team members below manager level:
I usually coach them as we go as they do ask me for directions anyway. However, there are a couple of cases where I gave unsolicited feedback to them directly on their general behavior in the office (e.g. chatting loudly during work, spend a lot of time on phonecalls about personal problems).
I chose to talk to each of them separately and directly and inform their supervisor as an FYI afterwards.
It seemed like my feedback was pretty well received (though I never know what they really think.) But I phrase the feedback more in terms of how their behavior affect both their credibility and the work environment.

2. Team members who are associate managers or managers:
This is trickier since I feel that they need to know better, and I sometime let it go. But there are cases where their performance level is simply unacceptable (to me anyway).
I usually start by giving the feedback to them in a softer form (e.g. show them the sample of a good quality work, and ask them to provide something similar). Success rate is about 80%. Not sure if they are not getting it, or they simply don't care.
I then either give them feedback in a more direct manner (easier with some than others).
If it doesn't work, or if I decided it won't do any good, I go to their bosses. But I rarely use this method as I myself will be quite unhappy with anyone who complains about me with my boss without discussing it with me first.
Is there a good rule of thumb on when to talk directly to a person, when to go to their bosses?

3. Team members who are in the higher position than me:
This is almost impossible for me to do. I usually just grin and bear it and find my way out of the situation either by politely nudging them for what the team needs... or just avoid having to depend on them. My other way (which I only use sparingly as a last resort) is to ask my boss to help. Sometime the boss can help, but more often than not, they can't do anything either.

4. How about giving feedback to my boss? I haven't done that in a while. The last time I did it was with my ex-boss. After several weeks of bad O3's, I asked her a direct question whether I had done anything that frustrated her. She apologized and said that she had let her own problems affected our relationship. Our O3's improved in an instant. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly), she left the company a few months after that.
My current boss is very open when I give feedback about a project we work together. However, I don't have a good feel on whether I can start a conversation about more general things. May be I should start by asking for a bi-weekly O3's and go from there?

jims's picture

Thank you to everyone that have commented - it was very helpful. I'm sorry for the duplicate question.

Best Regards,