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Tips on Giving Feedback to a Difficult Boss

written by: Alia Nikolakopulos•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 2/17/2011

Do you have a stubborn boss that just doesn't realize when there are problems in the workplace that need attention? If so, you may be wondering how you can give feedback to an obstinate boss without seeming like a complainer.

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    Have you ever wondered how to give feedback to an obstinate boss? If your boss is stubborn, it might be difficult to bring up sensitive issues to him. The first thing you’ll want to do is invite the discussion. Once you have your boss’s attention, don’t come off as a whiner; and be prepared to help take action.

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    Do Your Homework

    Business Meeting The most important aspect of your giving feedback to an obstinate boss is the knowledge you have about the discussion subject. For example, don’t rattle your mouth off to your boss about the amount of money being spent on office paper, if you don’t know how much paper should cost. If you think your company spends too much on paper, research several supply stores and see what the average rate is. In addition, see if any of the stores offer discounts for shopping online or buying in bulk. When you know the whole picture, you’ll have something to back up your position, plus if your boss asks you questions, you’ll have the information to respond. Once you’ve defined the areas you want to discuss with your boss, make sure you know why and how you came to your conclusions.

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    Think About the Bottom Line

    If your feedback involves a financial expense that affects the company's bottom line, present your feedback in a way that suggests you understand the financial impact, and that you’ve considered the company’s finances in your ideas. For example, if you want to demonstrate how purchasing an additional copier will increase productivity and save company dollars in the long run, prepare an Excel sheet to give to your boss that shows how the numbers work.

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    Ok, What If the Feedback is About My Boss?

    If you have feedback for your boss that involves his personal ability to do his job, you’ll want to choose your words wisely, especially if your boss didn’t invite your opinion. For example, if your boss is disorganized and frequently loses important documents or forgets appointments, you might offer to establish and maintain a simple organization system for him. This type of suggestion provides subtle feedback that his lack of organization is affecting his ability to run the department smoothly, but your offer to help alleviates his additional pressure of implementing a system.

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    Schedule a Meeting

    If your boss actually asks for your feedback, scheduling a meeting with him will be easy, but if your boss has given you no indication that he cares about what you have to say, scheduling a meeting might be a little more difficult. If it’s been a while since you’ve been given a review, you might ask for a meeting to discuss your performance, and let him know you want to discuss a couple of your own observations as well. Or, you might casually suggest that you have some ideas you’d like to run past him. Try to schedule one-on-one time if you feel that type of setting is best for your conversation.

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    Positive Focus

    Regardless of the basis of your feedback, you’ll want to keep a positive spin on the conversation. Try not to focus on things that can’t be fixed, shouldn’t be done, or that are generally irrelevant to company production or the bottom line. Feedback in its organic form is often negative, but you can make it a positive meeting by presenting the solution to your boss, and express your interest with helping to see the project through.

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    What’s the Reaction?

    Before you meet with your boss, prepare a memo that outlines the points you’d like to make during the conversation. Bring the memo with you; but do not read from it ,or hand it to your boss before you start talking. During the meeting, pay attention to your boss’s reaction to the feedback. If he seems interested or open to what you have to say, continue with your presentation. If your boss seems distracted or put off by what you’re saying, hand him your memo and thank him for his time. Your boss may understand your point of view when he reads your memo later.

    Remember that you're giving feedback to an obstinate boss, so don't get your hopes up for a smooth suggestion process during the first meeting. Even if you and your boss disagree, he will still appreciate the time and effort you took to present professional feedback. If your boss reacts with feedback for you, remember to take his comments graciously and professionally – in the same manner you hope he’ll take yours.

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    Harvard Business Review: How to Give Feedback to Your Boss -

    Bnet: 6 Ways to Give Feedback to Your Boss and Coworkers -

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