How to draw positive feedback from a critical boss

Leanne’s boss is heavy on the criticism but light on the praise. In fact, Leanne’s not even sure she’s doing anything right anymore. How can Leanne encourage her boss to tell her what she’s doing well?

This is a problem many people face at work. Here’s how we’d help Leanne deal with it. You can use the same process to encourage YOUR boss to mix a little positive in with the negative.

Show that feedback has been taken on board

So Leanne’s boss seems a little focussed on the negative stuff. But does Leanne act on the feedback she does get? Does she show she’s learning?

If Leanne’s boss remarks on spelling mistakes in reports, Leanne needs to be 100 per cent accurate in future. If her boss comments on Leanne being late for work, Leanne should be at work before her boss the very next day. Showing that she takes feedback on board may encourage her boss to be more constructive.

Get to know what makes the boss tick

The boss’s reasons for being critical may have nothing to do with Leanne or her performance.  Maybe her boss simply believes in the tough love approach. Perhaps her boss is so caught up in work that he only notices when there’s a problem.  

Understanding her boss’s motivation may not get Leanne the positive feedback she craves. However, it might make her more accepting of the situation, or give her insights that help her plan what to do next.  

Ask for positive feedback

If you don’t ask you don’t get. If Leanne wants positive feedback, she may only get it by being direct. How Leanne frames her request is crucial. Her tactics will depend on knowing her boss and getting her timing and language right.  

Leanne could say something like, ‘It’s really important for me to know what I’m doing well so I can continue doing what works and do less of what doesn’t.’ Or she could highlight her confusion by saying, ‘I don’t know whether I’m doing a good job or not. So I need some feedback’ It’s important to frame sentences using ‘I’ rather than ‘you’. This way, Leanne will avoid sounding critical, defensive or accusing.

Need help dealing with YOUR boss? Book a personal coaching session with Eleanor. Contact us now.

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