How can I offer my boss constructive feedback without offending her?

Friday January 31 2020

Caroline Mboijana

Caroline Mboijana 

By Caroline Mboijana

Whenever a colleague goes on leave and someone with a different job description is asked to sit-in, our supervisor never offers them the support they need. Most times, colleagues have to suspend their work to help the sit-in which should be the supervisor’s work. I feel she is being unsupportive but how can I tell her that without offending her? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
It is noble you have recognised a colleague needs help. It is difficult to step in since this is outside your sphere of control nonetheless you can, if managed carefully, influence the supervisor’s unhelpful behaviour. You need to find the courage to give constructive feedback, she may not be aware of the impact of her behaviour on the team.

Find aspects of the supervisor’s conduct that are helpful. This is important as it will form the opening sentence of your discussion. Having this feedback and sharing it with the supervisor will contribute to her appreciation of your feedback.

Make a list of the negative impact of her unhelpful behaviour. It is important you focus on incidents you have seen and not on what other people have said.
Ask her for a specific time in her diary for when to have the discussion.

Start with commenting on the aspects where she has done a good job and how its added value to the team. Then share suggestions that can improve team cohesion and performance. This approach flips the attention on discussing helpful behaviour that help the team and away from focusing on unhelpful behaviour.

The discussion is then centred on behaviour that you do want and not what you do not want. You will steer the conversation from attacking her personality and more towards brainstorming ways building a conducive working environment with her as the lead.


Caroline Mboijana
Managing Director
The Leadership Team (U)