I tried to search the forum for "bad feedback" "wrong feedback" etc. but could not really find something applicable,

Here is the thing: How do you deal with wrong feedback from your boss?

I would like to put aside the possibility that my assumption of "wrong" feedback from your boss is wrong. Except, if you tell me that feedback from the boss is always right, which I find difficult to believe as everybody makes mistakes, right? If boss's feedback is always right however, I would love to hear an explanation.

One example for wrong feedback from your boss might be this:

Let's assume you are responsible for completing two high-priority tasks in week x, that came up on short notice and that take up all your time. Your boss knows about it and encourages you to focus on these two tasks and leave aside "unimportant" stuff. After you successfully completed both tasks just in time and even your boss's boss is happy about what you achieved, you get feedback from your actual boss that you forgot to do three other, lower-priority tasks that you know are currently neither time-critical, nor important for the organization. 

Generally speaking: Should you always change your behaviour according to the feedback you get from your boss even if you feel strongly about that it may negatively affects your overall performance or should you think twice about whether the feedback you got is really effective? 

pucciot's picture
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Keep calm, keep professional, stay respectful - stay frosty

Take the Feedback for what it is worth.  Try your best to improve according to the Boss’ wishes.

Your job is to make the Boss look good.

Your job is to make the Boss’ job easier.  That is why your position was created in the first place. 


Help your Boss have a better memory – Help your boss see your perspective.

Repeat things -  stay in contact – overcommunicate.

To prevent “wrong” feedback in the future.

I would recommend that you use reflective listening techniques and jot down notes and keep emails as a CYA.

Don’t ever use them as a “See I told you so !” – but You have them on hand for two reasons :

  1. For your personal sanity
  2. Just in case the Boss has a moment of self-doubt or forgetfulness and asks you to verify what he said.


Keep calm, keep professional, stay respectful - stay frosty

There is the old adage the "customer is always right"

-- This is not always true


It is better to consider the corollary of this statement :  "The customer may not always be right -  but he is never wrong" 


They same is good to consider when dealing with your Boss who has role power -- and may be in a bad mood.

"The Boss may not be right - but he/she is never wrong"

I recommend that you do something like this :

Whenever the Boss is giving you instructions always reflect back to him/her what they said.

Repeat the instruction, and ask if you have heard and understood correctly.

Then offer any concerns that may hinder or delay that task.

Wait for the Boss to hear what he said from your mouth - and your concerns.

Then reflect again his final instructions....

It sounds something like this.


Boss :  Have that report to me by Friday at 5pm

DR : You want me to have that report to you by 5pm on Friday. Yes,  OK – I am also working with Jack on a project that is due at the same time.  Which should take priority ? Should we change the deadlines?

Boss :  Nope – I want the report by Friday at 5pm – and you can wait until Monday 5pm for that project with Jack.

DR :  OK – I will have that report to you at 5pm and Jack’s project deadline is delayed until Monday.  Do I understand this right ?

Boss :  Yes – that is what I said.

DR : OK Boss – thanks


The repetition and refelctive listeing will help the Boss' memory and his understanding of the work that you are handling.


Good Luck


SCN10A's picture

Thank you for the very elaborate response, pucciot!
However, I got some questions: When you're saying that my job is to make my boss look good but at the same time, this may be in conflict with every manager's most important duty, being most effective for the organization; how do you resolve that possible conflict?
I really like your modified adage about bosses being never wrong, that's duly noted and I think I can definitley improve with reflection and asking for clarification. Thas is great advice, thanks!
I will try to encourage such behaviour with my direct as well.
However, what do you do, if your boss is asking according to step 4 of the feedback model "What can you do differently next time?". As I understood Mike & Mark's approach, this question is not really intended to lead to a broad discussion but more to encourage affirmation of correcting wrong behaviour next time. So if you feel that what you did was most effective, how would you then respond to the question?

pucciot's picture
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What to say on Step 4 ? : 
Always say "Yes, Boss I will do better.  I might have a few ideas about how to approach this better next time"

If he asks what they are ? :  "I haven't fully formed them in my mind yet.  But, please give me Feedback again if I don't improve next time." 


I do understand and feel your concerns here.

My recommendations here are more on the practical and pragmatic side, not exactly on the ideal side.

 The situation you presented was that you think that your Manager is being a little unreasonable, or is a bit unaware of some complex give-and-take of your job.

In a very pragmatic sense, your boss is asking you to do better.  Sometimes you may need to play a little bit of a shell game with your Boss’ perceptions.  Do a little bit of this – and little bit of that – maybe you will have to do a lower quality job on those other things.  This is called suboptimization.

·         This idea just kills a High “C” – you seem like a High “C” so – yeah, I’m suggesting you go against your natural behavior style.


Sometimes you just have to be willing to get in trouble for a few things.  Delegate a few things to the floor or let your boss complain about something to the point it reaches systemic feedback.

This is not ideal, and it does have the virtue of your boss having to really decide that something is more important to them.

The good thing here is that if your performance is very good on most other issues, and you are getting positive recognition from your Skip Boss, you can be relatively safe to choose some minor things to get in trouble for.

Either your Boss will eventually make a big deal about it, or he/she will realize that this task is only small potatoes and not really as important as he/she is fixating about.

That is why the reflective listening is so important. 

If you continue to bring up your concerns about the conflict of time and priority, when it comes to particular tasks, it will eventually force a good reevaluation between you and your Boss – or he will eventually let it go and trust your judgment.

  • Yes, there is some risk here.  So tread carefully, and choose your trouble wisely.

Good Luck


SCN10A's picture

Thank you TJPuccio,

Very helpful again!

Your answer helped me to understand how behaving compliant will be beneficial for me while not driving me nuts. 
The other part about the reflection and pointing out possibly conflicting priorities from time to time, asking for clarification, is very neat practical advice. 
Thanks again!


PS: I have listened to the delegating-to-the-floor and found them to be very uplifting. "Deciding what to be in trouble for" positively struck a nerve with me!


ZITTER's picture

well, thanks for sharing it's very informative.

Breanna_Ileen's picture

Stay composed and don't show any contradiction, but you can say your point in a calm and professional manner. Point out that he instructed to leave aside unimportant stuff. Mention that would have done it if you had extra time. If you can, tell him you'll do the rest as soon as possible.

JLemien's picture

I recommend that you read the book “Thanks for the Feedback." I found it to be incredibly helpful for understanding feedback in professional and in non-professional contacts. It specifically has a section on dealing with feedback that is not accurate.

Chris Zeller's picture
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Thanks for the Feedback and Difficult Conversations are both good reads. Solid suggestion.

Jollymom's picture

Receiving wrong feedback from a boss is tough. Even though it’s tempting to react immediately, your emotions are at their peak in the heat of the moment. So, you must take a deep breath and give yourself some physical space to absorb the comments and clear your head before responding one way or another.