While it could be bad for your career to point out every misstep your boss makes, you’re more likely to get a boost if you can kindly communicate constructive criticism when he really needs it, says writer and entrepreneur Jennifer Winter.
She offers three tips to help you make sure any feedback you offer your boss is both diplomatic and productive.
1. Do a cost-benefit analysis. In Winter’s early days as a manager, an employee confronted her in front of the entire team to tell Winter she was doing a task wrong. The encounter destroyed Winter’s credibility with the team and killed her confidence. Later Winter discovered she wasn’t actually doing anything wrong, just differently than the last person who held her position. This was a case where there was little benefit to the employee speaking out and a great cost to Winter and the team. Always take the time to consider whether it’s important feedback, how sharing it will affect your boss, and whether sharing will help or hurt in the long run.
2. Write down your thoughts in advance to avoid getting tongue-tied or saying the wrong thing. Keep the script simple, and don’t let yourself be tempted to stray from it during the meeting because that will just get you in trouble. Also, don’t put your notes in an email or any other electronic form that could get passed along, so the conversation stays between you and your boss.
3. Keep your communication classy, kind and specific. Remember that bosses’ feelings can be hurt, too. Once you decide to give your boss some constructive criticism, take time to consider exactly how to do so with a focus on being professional, polite, classy and kind.
Schedule a time to speak with your boss in private and give her a general idea of what you’d like to talk about. For example, if she talks too long during meetings, you can say you’d like to talk about the structure of your. Once the meeting time arrives, be sure to discuss—not attack—and be specific about what areas she could stand to improve.
— Adapted from “Giving Feedback to Your Boss—Like a Boss,” Jennifer Winter, The Daily Muse.