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Marcell Lipp
Marcell Lipp

Posted on • Originally published at

How to give feedback to your boss?

Most of the developers has some kind of feedback discussion with their boss. In some cases it is regular (every month, every half year etc.), in other cases it is only done if it has a purpose.

A lot of programmers have the feeling that these meetings are basically just getting the orders from their boss for the next time. But it should not be like that. It should be a bidirectional feedback session.

Of course your boss has some long term goals with the team and has some plans with you personally as well. These meetings are normally about these goals: giving you some personal goals which are supporting the long term goals of the team and giving you feedback if something is going wrong. It’s up to your boss, but sometimes this is the whole content of your meeting and nothing more. Luckily the good bosses know: without good and enthusiastic employees non of the team goals will be satisfied. That’s why good bosses are asking the employees as well what they are feeling what is their feedback. But to give a correct answer on these questions is not always easy. Some of the developers just telling that everything is great, even if it’s totally not true. Others are starting to complain about everything. These are not so effective strategies. In the first case your boss will never know your problems, so most likely they won’t change. In the second case after a lot of complaining your boss won’t take care about your problems.

But how to do it correctly?

First of all, let’s prepare yourself for the meeting. Think about the time period since your previous meeting and collect all the point what you have successfully done: achieved milestones, good customer feedback, achieving a small part of your goals defined with your boss, changing something what was a negative feedback last time. And think about the things what were not going well as well. If you missed something try to find the reason why (you were busy with some other tasks etc.). Next to that always try to think about that what was positive for you and what was negative for you in the last period.

On the meeting always let your boss start the discussion and never stop him/her talking, even if you strongly disagree with something. Always wait until you are directly asked. In the first part of the meeting always try present your results: always start with the success stories and after them mention some of your failed achievements. Always try to tell that you did you best, but unfortunately it was not enough. Like: “Unfortunately we were late at the delivery, we worked hard on the milestone, but a tricky technical issue came into the picture and it took a lot of effort to solve it. At the end we found a good solution, but it was unfortunately too late, hopefully next time it will be faster.”.

As next stage of your meeting try to tell your feedback to your boss: always mention some positive things what you like (good team, interesting tasks, flexibility etc.) and after that you can change to your negative feedback. Always try to tell them with a positive attitude and try to present your related ideas. For example: “Unfortunately we need to do too often over hours which I don’t really like. Of course I can understand that it is needed sometimes. I think it could be much better if we could extend our team with a new developer”. If a problem if coming back and back again you can be a bit more strict, you can tell that “this problem is there since months, I already told you multiple times and it is making me demotivated”. But important is: never make surprises to your boss, don’t be too aggressive if you are mentioning a problem for the first time.

Most likely your boss has some feedback for you as well and most of the cases it has some negative part as well. The important thing is: always take questions related the negative feedback, even if you are strongly disagree. “What do you exactly mean with this point?” “How could I do it better?” etc. And at the end just tell that “OK, I’ll try to change it”. Then your boss should be happy with this reaction, in fact he/she can’t tell anything against you after that.

At the end of the meeting most likely you will talk about your next goals. Your boss has most likely some ideas and probably you have some ideas as well. Let your boss present his own ideas first. After that you can answer in such a way: “ok, clear, I like this idea, however I think in this way it would be more effective”. And here you can present your own idea. Pay attention: always keep some parts from the suggestions of your boss, but always bring your own ideas with some good reasons. If you are doing this part well then your boss will think that you agreed his idea, but in fact it’s mainly your idea, which is totally different than his idea was at the beginning.

One more important thing: always try to document everything from these meetings, it can be helpful later on.

The next important point: if your boss is not organising such meetings with you, but you have a feedback you can always ask your boss for a feedback discussion. Your boss will think that you are highly motivated and that’s why you are asking for a feedback. But after his feedback you are free to present your feedback as well.

At last never forget: of course your workplace is important for you, but you are important for your workplace as well. If you don’t like something there always try to change it. And the first step of every change is to give a clear feedback!

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