Best Examples of Effective Employee Feedback for Managers

Katie Liston


Employee Feedback

Constructive feedback encourages progress all around, and it should happen both ways. In this post, we’ll break down the best examples of employee feedback for managers to guide staff in providing effective upward feedback.

Have you ever wanted to talk to your manager about something they could be doing better, but you weren’t sure how to go about it? That feeling is more common than you think. While your manager may recognize the value of upward feedback, they might not be doing a great job of encouraging employee feedback.

That being said, unless your manager has taken a clear stance against feedback, the benefits outweigh the risks. We’ll look at situations when it’s necessary to give feedback to managers as well as examples of employee feedback for managers and best practices in employee engagement.

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Why is it Important to Give Feedback to Managers?

Employee feedback isn’t always easy to hear. But if managers listen to employees, they can learn a lot.

The importance of employee feedback is so managers can address concerns and leverage opportunities in the workplace. This in turn will lead to a stronger organizational culture, which is a win-win for both managers and staff.

When staff feel that they can voice their opinions and concerns, they’ll feel valued in their organization. This sense of pride and comfort in the workplace in turn leads to higher motivation and participation. 

But employees also have to voice their feedback in a way that’s constructive and conducive to positive change. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of how and when this is done. 

How Should You Give Feedback to Managers?

When it comes to giving feedback to managers, the key is being specific and solution-oriented. You also have to make sure your feedback is well thought out rather than spontaneous and reactive. 

Giving feedback out of anger or resentment will likely result in a response that’s equally reactive. In the end, these types of interactions between staff and managers won’t reach a resolution. 

On the other hand, holding in feedback until it bubbles up into anger or fizzles into employee disengagement is equally bad.

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Instead, the goal is to aim for well thought out feedback backed by facts, a desire for positive change, and a little bit of empathy. Not to mention, giving and receiving feedback should be made easy. Having a consistent channel where you can share input, such as an internal newsletter, is a great way to foster a culture of feedback. 

But the first step is to speak up.

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We’ll look at 6 common scenarios when upward feedback is necessary and examples of employee feedback for managers. 

1. Give feedback to managers when there are communication issues

When employees aren’t sure what’s expected of them, it’s difficult for them to optimize their performance. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to workplace communication issues.

As it so happens, Communication is a common problem in nearly every organization. According to the 2020 Communication Statistics survey, “89% of people believe that effective communication is extremely important, but 8 out of 10 people rate their own business’s communication as either average or poor.”

But strong internal communication is vital because company culture—goals, values, and practices—must be effectively communicated in order for employees to understand and act upon it.

Without effective communication, employees can’t perform at their best because they don’t have a clear understanding of what success looks like.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

Luckily there are some ways you can address the gaps in communication with your manager. Here are a few examples:

Asking for more help: “I know you have a lot of tasks on your plate, but I was wondering if you might have time for more regular check-ins with me. This way, we can ensure that I’m on the right track with my tasks and our team goals.”

Clarifying vague instructions: “You mentioned that a key priority you have for me is to boost sales. I wanted to ask how much of an increase you had in mind and what timeline you see for this goal.”

2. Give feedback to managers when you’re not seeing recognition from management

You were really excited about your new job. You put in 110% thinking it would pay off. But quickly, you’ve learned that employee efforts aren’t being recognized by senior leaders.

Employee recognition is an important part of company culture, not just another box for managers to check. 

Employee recognition gives employees a meaningful sense of appreciation, showing that they and their work are valued. 

Employees who feel appreciated report being more tied to their organization and believe they work in a more positive environment.

If employees aren’t feeling appreciated, there may be a gap between how much appreciation managers feel and how well they’re making employees aware of those feelings.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

If you notice that your managers are only dishing out criticism and never recognizing their staff, here’s what you can say:

Suggesting more recognition for the whole team: “Would it be alright to offer some feedback? You had some great insights in your presentation and did an awesome job at explaining your analysis. But I did notice that a few people in the meeting disengaged early in the presentation. I’m wondering if it could help to begin the meeting by acknowledging some of the team’s recent accomplishments first. This type of approach might be more engaging with our team and will make them feel even more motivated.”

Suggesting more personal recognition: “I’d like to know how I’m doing and what is my potential for growth at the company.”

3. Give feedback to managers when you notice employee favouritism

Favouritism in the workplace often happens because friendships develop between a supervisor and someone who reports to them.

But what seems like an innocent relationship can have a significant negative impact on employees, who feel like they’re not receiving the same opportunities. This results in lower employee morale or even their departure from the company.

A recent study found that 92% of business executives have witnessed favoritism in employee promotions, including at their own companies. And about a quarter of the executives surveyed admitted that they had practiced favouritism in the past.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

If you feel that there is truly favoritism at your workplace and it’s impacting your drive and performance, it’s best to speak up. Here’s how to go about it:

If another worker gets picked ahead of you for a task you are qualified for: “I was really looking forward to working with our new client. Could you give me some feedback on why I wasn’t chosen to work on their file so that I can improve in the future?”

If you are the subject of workplace favoritism and notice unfair treatment: “Without Noah’s help, this project truly couldn’t have been a success. I am so grateful for his support.”

4. Give feedback to managers when you’re feeling burnt out

You probably came to the company expecting to challenge yourself and work hard to grow in your team. But lately, it seems that the more you accomplish the more gets put on your plate. 

Burnout is a real problem for companies. A 2018 study found that “23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.” 

According to the same study, burnout also has significant organizational costs. Burned-out employees are “63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job,” according to the study.

Meanwhile, those employees who do stay are less confident in their professional abilities, the study reads.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

If you’re experiencing burnout at your workplace, it’s important that you speak out before there are additional negative impacts on your mental health and wellbeing. Here are some examples of how to address the issue with your manager:

Explaining that you have a lot on your plate: “After looking over my tasks for this month, I think that taking on this extra project would have a negative impact on my overall performance. I want to do an amazing job on this task and give it 110% but as I work 20 hours a week with my existing clients and 15 hours on new sales, I have less time to give this project my all. I am worried that it will put a strain on my relationships with current clients and my other tasks. Would it be possible to discuss how we can adjust my workload?”

Recognizing when there’s flexibility and encouraging more of it: “I really appreciate you allowing me a bit more time with this project. It let me really refine the final product and make enhancements that really resonated with the client.”

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5. Give feedback to managers when your boss is micromanaging

Your manager’s intentions may have been noble and pure. But her micromanagement approach leads you to feel like she doesn’t trust your judgment, skills, or expertise. 

When managers practice excessive control of employees’ work, it results in employees feeling as if they’re not suited to the task at hand. Not to mention, employees may feel drained from small repetitive tasks and lack of flexibility in their work.

Most importantly, micromanagement may lead to employees disengaging, which costs companies about $600,000 a year and results in high turnover.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

If you truly feel that your creative freedom is stunted and you spend more time reporting on your tasks than doing them, you need to talk to your manager. Here are some examples of what you can say:

When you’re asked to report one every task: “I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get after completing each of my assigned tasks. But I’m concerned that I spend a lot of time creating task reports and taking time away from enhancing my projects. Would it be possible for me to submit a monthly overview of my tasks instead?”

When you want more creative freedom over the scope of a project: “I want to learn more about our ultimate goals with this task so that I can work towards the bigger picture and strengthen my work.”

6. Give feedback to managers when you’re not seeing room for growth

Perhaps you were excited to take on a new opportunity, but after six months, you noticed there was no pipeline for advancement. Now, you’re wondering whether you’ll have to leave the company to move up the career ladder.

Talented professionals want to work for an organization that helps them feel upwardly mobile, as if they’re working to better themselves and advance their careers. 

Failing to support employees’ professional development damages their morale and productivity. It may even result in them leaving the organization if they don’t feel valued. 

In fact, more than 82% of employees surveyed in one study said a lack of progression would influence their decision to leave their jobs.

But there are ways to encourage managers into providing more insights into an employee’s potential for growth.

Examples of employee feedback for managers:

If you feel like you’re putting in the effort but not moving forward at your company, here are some examples of how to touch on the matter with your manager. 

Getting insights on your potential for growth: “I’m passionate about developing my skills to a point where I could be an effective team lead one day. Would you be able to let me know if you see that type of growth potential in my future at the company?”

When you see other coworkers growing in the company: “Since the senior leadership team is expanding, I’d like to discuss how I can help expand my own potential within the company as well.”

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Best Practices for Giving Feedback to Managers

Now that we’ve looked at examples of employee feedback for managers, let’s break down the best practices at the center of any effective feedback. We’ve compiled a list of our top best practices for upward feedback to guide you along.

Ask if giving feedback is okay

If your company already encourages two-way feedback, that’s great. But suppose your manager or company hasn’t solicited upward feedback. In that case, the first step is to ask and see if they’re open to receiving it—which is easier said than done.

If you’re nervous about approaching your manager, that’s natural. Try not to over-analyze the situation or jump to conclusions about how they might react before you even speak to them.

Blog image of workers providing feedback to managers.

Perhaps you already have an established, trusting relationship with your manager. The odds of the conversation going well are in your favor, so you can jump to the point more quickly.

As we work on this project together, can I give you my take at different points?”

If you haven’t established a strong relationship yet or you’re unsure how your manager will react, try asking whether sharing feedback is okay subtly. Slide your question in during a relevant conversation.

“With my previous experience in XYZ, I might be able to provide valuable insight on this project. Would you like feedback as it moves along?”

Once you’ve put the question out there, gauge how your boss reacts. If they seem receptive to constructive feedback, you can proceed. If in doubt, hold your tongue.

Worst case: Your manager might still believe in rigid, outdated top-down management. If they’re entirely unreceptive to feedback—specifically about an issue that negatively impacts you, your team, or the company in a significant way—consider taking the matter to human resources or, if possible, switching teams.

Lead with facts

Unsolicited feedback can make the recipient feel anxious and defensive, so don’t make it purely about you or your issues.

When emotions are involved, it’s best to stick to the facts.

Why? Well, trust plays a significant role in how feedback is received. Adhering to the facts and not making it personal shows that you can be objective, unbiased, and honest.

So before you even decide to bring up an issue to your manager, check your thoughts. Ask yourself whether you’re offering constructive feedback or if it’s personal. If you’re not sure, consider running your thoughts by an unbiased third party—like a friend, mentor, or colleague—to get an objective opinion.

Don’t frame your feedback based on false assumptions that your issue is widespread. You might learn that your views and experiences are just yours and do not reflect what other team members feel.

According to John Baldoni, author of Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up, people respond better to details over generalities.

Try to be specific about what prompted your feedback—whether that’s a particular incident, an error made in a project, or something you heard from a colleague.

If you don’t have all the facts, clarify that you’re communicating your perspective on a situation, and acknowledge that this may or may not be an accurate assessment of the complete picture.

Go into this discussion with the right attitude and some diplomacy. Make your intentions—recognizing and improving a problem—clear from the get-go. These tactics will help you start the conversation on the right foot.

Find mutual goals

Common interests encourage both parties to work together. In the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, the authors emphasize the importance of finding a mutual purpose.

Blog image of employee identifying target.

Your boss has different responsibilities than you, so you’ll need to understand what their goals are and frame your feedback in a relevant way. If you don’t know what your manager’s goals are, just ask.

Focus on mutual interests. Frame your feedback around things that matter to your boss, such as team performance, the outcome of a project, or client/employee retention.

In your conversation, be genuine about working toward a common goal versus a personal agenda. When you show that you care about the other person’s interests, goals, and values, they’re bound to reciprocate.

Ideally, your conversation results in a win-win situation where both parties get what they need out of it.

Frame feedback positively

Did you know that “up to 53% of senior leaders (such as VPs and directors) and 42% of senior managers want more recognition in the workplace”?

The feedback sandwich is a great way to acknowledge what they’re doing well, along with offering constructive feedback. Unless you’re in an unhealthy environment, your manager’s probably doing a few things right that you can recognize:

  • Start your conversation with praise—something your manager did right.
  • Segue into the criticism or the actual feedback, i.e., the area they need to improve.
  • Conclude with something positive, e.g., show your appreciation for how receptive they’ve been.

In her bestselling book Radical Candor, author Kim Scott advocates for feedback that’s humble, helpful, and immediate.

  • Helpful: An opportunity to provide feedback doesn’t mean a free pass to be cynical or complain.
  • Humble: Don’t poke at someone’s weaknesses—again, offer constructive feedback.
  • Immediate: Try to provide your feedback in a timely manner; ideally, soon after an issue happens. Bringing up an incident from six months ago could reflect bottled up problems, not an opportunity for progress. It’s also not healthy for you to let matters pile up.

Think about how your feedback can help your manager improve. Enter the conversation with solutions, which enables open two-way communication.

Agree to disagree, if needed

Sometimes, despite all your efforts, you and your manager just might not be on the same page—and that’s okay. One size doesn’t fit all, so the solution you offer may not resonate with your manager.

If the conversation doesn’t go the way you planned or result in the outcome you wanted, try to give your manager the benefit of the doubt. They might have their reasons for disagreeing with you, and it may have nothing to do with feelings. You may not know the big picture or have access to all the pieces, so don’t presume to know the whole situation.

If your boss is defensive at the end of the conversation, Baldoni recommends reiterating that you’re conveying your perspective, which may or may not be accurate.

As long as the issue doesn’t jeopardize your well-being, team, or company, you don’t have to take it to HR. You’ve given your two cents, so now it’s on your boss to take it or leave it.

Constructive feedback works both ways

You might find it hard to provide honest feedback face to face. In that case, try encouraging your manager or HR to send out company-wide surveys to employees for anonymous feedback.

In a recent study by Achievers, 77% of respondents say “they are more likely to provide honest feedback in a survey than to their manager.” Research also shows that survey frequency correlates with employee engagement, helping you make your case to HR.

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Employee Feedback Strengthens Your Business

Make surveys a regular part of your internal communications strategy. Include pulse survey questions in your employee newsletter to encourage the sharing of employee feedback.

Many companies use ContactMonkey’s employee feedback tools to assess and improve employee engagement via surveys. ContactMonkey allows businesses to create and embed surveys right into emails and quickly gather employee feedback.

Schedule a ContactMonkey demo to learn how you can easily gather and analyze employee feedback.