Would You Tell Your Boss They're No Good?

Shawn Lea wrote an interesting post over on the Acronym blog about the fact that managers overwhelmingly rate themselves as good managers, but their employees…not so much (92% versus 67%). One of the studies she quoted said that really only one third of managers will accurately predict what their employees would say about them as managers.

I expect there are many reasons contributing to this, but here’s a big one in my opinion: managers and employees don’t talk about the managers’ performance. Unless they are at an organization that uses 360-degree feedback, there is never a structure for that conversation (and then, it has to be anonymous). Why can’t we have an honest conversation with our superiors about their performance?

The obvious answer is, because we might get fired. I suppose that is true in some circumstances, but I challenge people to question that assumption. Is it really true that if you gave some constructive, negative feedback to your manager, the result would be termination? Really? Managers: would you exact revenge on an employee who told you about specific ways in which you manage that he or she did not like? Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think that’s rare.

Regardless, the feedback conversation is going to be perceived as a tough one. But if you want your managers to learn, you need to create an environment where you can have that conversation. And managers, by the way, have to initiate it.


  1. 29.09.2006 at 10:20 am

    The feedback conversation is tough and it would be great if both sides perceived it as an opportunity for growth in their partnership.
    The challenge, of course, is enabling managers and employees to effectively communicate relevant information in a way that can be heard well and acted upon. Skill-building creates a framework for and saftey to have those important talks.
    I’d challenge your readers to step back and consider if they entered the manager-employee relationship in a productive way. Meaning, did you (manager/employee) sit down and proactively discuss the best ways for you to work together and what your common goals are? That’s truly where the feedback conversation begins- with setting expectations.
    During my years as an Ombuds I’ve known successful managers and most of them included this step in the hiring process intuitively.
    Thanks Jaime!
    Dina Beach Lynch, Ombuds
    The Ombuds Academy