June 11, 2014
5 Ways to Offer Suggestions to Your Supervisor (without getting fired!)
Making changes to improve your company’s operations is a large portion of your responsibility as an IT professional. It may be your job to lead new program implementation or you could be put in charge of managing unexpected issues; either way, you can expect to work very closely with your supervisor. Working in such close proximity with anyone gives great insight into their performance and this is especially true of your boss. You’ve noticed on numerous occasions that he or she isn’t communicating effectively enough with the rest of the team, but is it your place to bring this up? Could you be putting your job and work relationship at risk by offering unsolicited feedback? Possibly.
Giving your boss feedback, also called upward feedback, can be a tricky art to master. However, if planned correctly and thoughtfully, your suggestions may not only help improve your supervisor’s communication style, but strengthen your work relationship and most importantly, save your job. We’ve come up with a list of 5 tactful ways to go about offering suggestions, as well as some important things to consider when doing so!
1. Consider the Relationship Offering suggestions to your supervisor is highly dependent on the relationship that you have with one another. Before saying anything, gauge whether your boss will react negatively, which in this case it is better to keep quiet, or if they are open to what you have to say. As with any feedback, your intentions should be good and supersede any issues you may have with him or her.
2. Wait or ask for an invitation Even if you have a wonderful working relationship with your boss, unsolicited feedback is a no-no. Ideally, he or she will ask for your input and make it clear that it will be helpful to hear what you have to say. If no feedback is directly requested and you’d like to offer a suggestion, do so in the context of a new IT project or client. You can say something along the lines of “Would it be helpful to you for me to give you feedback at certain points in this project?” Once again, it is very important to demonstrate your willingness to make them a better leader, not feel incompetent.
3. Focus on your point-of-view It can be very tempting to imagine and want to voice all of the things you would do differently if you were in their position, but your feedback should be framed from your own perspective. Though you may help your supervisor to see how others view him or her (which is very important for a leader who is disconnected from lower-level IT professionals), you have no way of knowing all of the issues and demands required from his side.
4. Give specific examples If writing down a few notes will help to organize your thoughts, do it! Feel free to take it a step further by putting together a four to five slide presentation outlining any issues and possible solutions. Not only does it show that you’ve done your homework, but that you aren’t complaining about something minute.
5. When in doubt, hold your tongue If you’re not sure if your recommendations are welcome or not and don’t feel comfortable asking, it’s almost always better to avoid it altogether. There is no reason to put your relationship or job in danger, unless you truly feel your boss’s behavior is damaging your company’s reputation or putting your project in jeopardy.
When deciding whether to offer feedback to your supervisor, the most important thing to do is weigh the possible consequences. Will your relationship be impaired? Is your opinion valued? Should you say anything at all? These are all questions to ask yourself before jumping into the unknown. Offering feedback can be a sticky subject, but doing so with your boss’s best interest in mind is the best way to go about the situation. And remember, saying “Thank You” goes a long way. Good luck!