How to give 360 feedback to your manager with examples The hardest things to give feedback to your manager on

Giving constructive feedback helps you and your manager work together better, but it may not be easy. Here's our guide to how to do it - with examples.

Giving upward feedback to your manager can be tricky, especially when it’s about behaviour that directly affects you.
Giving upward feedback to your boss can be tricky
According to a recent survey by the IZA, about 13% of managers in Europe are “bad bosses” ie they are disrespectful, never give praise, undermine you, or stop your team from working well.

And in the US, half of employees say they have left a company because of a bad boss.

Your manager may not be ‘bad’ or display those behaviours, but what happens when they behave in ways that undermine you or your work, or put undue pressure on you?

So if you've been asked to give 360-degree feedback on your manager, do you try to honestly answer the questions or sidestep them?

It might seem really dangerous to start talking about how you experience your manager or their weaknesses, so here’s some examples of 360-degree feedback you can use to give your manager or your boss feedback on a range of issues, including when:
  • You’re being micromanaged
  • Your boss can’t say no to new work
  • Your boss doesn’t respect you
  • Your boss doesn't listen to you
  • Your boss only ever criticises you
Your manager is probably the most important person you work with. A good, healthy, respectful relationship with them can boost your productivity, your morale and your career. But working with your manager can also bring up tensions, fears, and dislikes that can get in the way of doing good work.

Giving your manager feedback when they’ve crossed the line or if they’re not supporting you can be tricky especially if it puts your job or your relationship at risk - you may be worried about how honest you can be without creating tension or making it worse.

The thing is they may not realise the impact they’re having or how they’re being received. They may not have stopped to reflect on what they’re doing.

If done well, upward feedback can not only improve your working relationship but will also help your boss. So the important thing is to talk to them. 

The hardest things to feedback to your manager on, with examples of how to do it

Here are examples of how to give constructive feedback to your boss on some of the hardest issues:
  • You’re being micromanaged
  • Your manager can’t say no to new work
  • Your boss doesn’t respect you
  • Your manager doesn't listen to you
  • Your manager avoids difficult conversations
  • Your boss only ever criticises you
  • Your manager has favourites, and you're not one
  • Your manager can't see you're drowning
  • Your boss talks too much in meetings
with some general principles - use the approach to give them feedback in a conversation or 360-degree feedback review. 

There are 4 general principles for how to give feedback:
  • Focus on the behaviour: be explicit about what your manager did and how they did it. Don’t make it personal.
  • Explain the impact: what effect your manager’s behaviour is having - on you, on the work. 
  • Speak for yourself and not for others
  • Suggest a solution: make an offer and be open to talk about it. You may not like the behaviour but there might be a reason that’s driving it. 

1. My boss is micromanaging me

This is a common problem.

It might help to reflect on why they are micromanaging you. What's going on that makes them feel that they need to get into the details with you? 

It may have nothing to do with you. It may be because they are getting pressure from above. It might be because they used to do your job and only recently became a manager. Micromanaging could be more comfortable than working out how to support you and help you grow. 

The real issue is that you don't know, and you also don’t know how to change so that they will get off your back and give you space to get on with it.

It may be hard to have this conversation - your best way in might be to phrase your feedback like this: “I sometimes get micro-managed. I feel frustrated and resentful when this happens because I know how to do my job. I'm curious to know what I could do differently to help you have more confidence in my work so that they feel able to leave me to it. If there is something I need to learn I'd be grateful to hear it. I would welcome a conversation about this.”

2. My manager never says no, which puts me under a lot of pressure

I remember consulting on this issue with a small team. They were feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks and projects their manager had taken on. 

How do you give feedback to your manager about this? One option is to communicate clearly and regularly with them about all the things that you have on. Make sure you do some upfront thinking about what is required for each ie how long is it going to take and when you can do it. Then schedule all that time in your calendar.

Pretty quickly that’ll flag up that there’s no way to get everything done in the available time.

If you've done this upfront thinking you can show your manager your calendar and say, “Look, I've put all the work in, but I can't do it all. Can you help me determine what the priorities are?”

Your boss or manager might respond by saying, “You do need to do it all, but you don't need to do all of it to the standard that you think you do. Let's talk about what the output should look like.” 

That will help.

You could also model good behaviour by saying that you can do everything that is being asked - you have the capability - but you don’t have the capacity right now. You can use that as a respectful way of saying no to new work, until you do have the capacity.

You could also suggest a “big board” that maps all of the work of your team, showing what's coming up and who's working on what. (You could use an online tool such as Trello.) By making all the work visible, you have a guide for what’s on and can use it to say no collectively, which is a way of supporting your manager without patronising them or challenging their authority.

3. My boss doesn’t respect me

This can be really disconcerting, and hard to know how to engage with. 

First of all, what is it that makes you feel they don't respect you? What are they doing and how are they behaving? Be specific because that is really useful feedback. 

If they don't know how you are feeling they'll continue to behave in these ways, quite possibly causing anxiety without realising or intending to.

Of course it may be that they are being pointedly disrespectful. Disrespectful behaviour is not okay and is never an appropriate response in a workplace. Making them aware that the behaviour has been noticed might be enough to stop it. 

When you give feedback, be explicit about the problematic behaviour without making a judgement about the person. For example “when you do X or Y, I feel disrespected. I would rather you did X if there is a concern or issue so that I can deal with it. When I feel disrespected I find it harder to do Z so it would be great if we could break this pattern.“

The point is: if you make it about them rather than the behaviour, you'll get a defensive reaction. 

Alternatively, if it is actually about the way you manage or there has been a specific incident or a clash of personalities it would be really helpful to understand that. 

You could use a 360 review on yourself to explore this - ask trusted colleagues or even your friends (who know you best) if there are things about you that might lead to a disrespectful response. That might feel uncomfortable, but if it was me, I'd rather know so I could do something about it, or be clear about the consequences of continuing in the same vein.

A 360 is a safe way to broach this issue, but it'll be better and faster if tackled through a conversation with the person concerned.

4. My manager doesn't listen to me

This is a tricky one, so you have to find a way of making sure your manager knows how you feel.

Firstly, can you identify the situations when it happens? For example, how do you know your manager isn’t listening? Do they look away? Do they ignore you and do the opposite of what you say?

We would always recommend embracing the fear of conflict, and trying to have a chat about it in a one-to-one.

If you can ascertain what it is about their behaviour then when you speak to them you can make sure your feedback to them is specific: “You’re not listening to me,” is not as helpful as, “I feel that you didn’t listen when I was talking about XYZ because you interrupted me three times before I finished my thought.” 

Once you’ve explained to them how you feel when they don’t listen to you, it’s a good idea to make a clear request for what you need: avoid vague phrases like “I think we should talk more often in the future,” because that doesn’t tell anyone anything specific or actionable. Instead, say something like “Can we set up regular check-ins every two weeks so we can stay on top of this?”

5. My manager avoids difficult conversations

Many people manage uncomfortable conversations by avoiding them, but putting them off can make matters worse. So if your boss or manager is avoiding difficult conversations and for example, poor behaviour is not being challenged - that is likely to be having an impact on team performance and culture, as well as how you feel.

Knowing this doesn’t help if your manager is frightened of difficult conversations.  However you do have some options for influencing them:
  1. Talk to your manager about it
    Be specific: instead of making general statements, give examples of when your manager avoided a difficult conversation or when poor behaviour from a colleague went unchallenged. Keep it personal and use an "I" statement, this will avoid your manager feeling defensive. For example, instead of saying "You always avoid difficult conversations," you could say, "I noticed that when Joe cuts Karen off in meetings, you avoid saying anything about it." Then focus on the impact that it has on you. For example, you could say, "when you avoid that conversation, it means Joe can carry on doing it, Karen feels really bad, and I don’t feel safe to share my thoughts in meetings either. It’s having an effect on my morale and my productivity."
  2. Call it out when it happens
    You could call it out when it’s happening. For example in a team meeting, you could say, “Can I just say something? When you speak like that in a meeting, I feel really anxious and I don’t feel safe to say what I’m thinking. Maybe it's only me that feels this way, but perhaps other people feel the same. And that's really not helpful for us as a group. Could we talk about it?” In hierarchical organisations you'd expect your manager to do this, but if they're not, you could do it. Other people might pile in and say, "actually, yes, I'd like to talk about it too." And the group could fix it, which is what every manager really wants, for their team to be self-led.

6. My manager never recognises my good work, and only criticises me

That's really hard. 

What's going on here for you? What is it that you need? Quite possibly you just need somebody to tell you you’re doing okay. We all need that kind of recognition. Even a simple, “Thank you,” can make us feel really good. 

If your boss or manager is only ever criticising you it's clearly easier for them to find fault. Perhaps they have forgotten or didn’t know that you can also build esteem with positive reinforcement (as any parent or teacher will know.)

One of the ways you could give feedback on this, is to say to your manager, “oh, could we have a chat about what's good about this [piece of work], and what you like?” Or you could say, “thank you, it's really helpful to have feedback on those areas for improvement, but it would also be really helpful to understand the bits that you like [about the document] because I find myself obsessing a little bit on the negative things when I think there might be some good stuff in there too. So could you clarify what is good?”

This is asking for feedback in a directive way. Another option is less direct and more about modelling those behaviours yourself: if you need good feedback, how are you giving it to other people? How are you celebrating success with others? 

7. My manager has favourites and I’m not one

Inequitable behaviour is a real trigger for lots of people. So if there is favouritism and some people are getting better treatment or privileges, it's going to bring up powerful emotions for people who’re witnessing it and missing out.

Can you influence this situation? Well, the most influence you have is over yourself. Which means recognising why you're upset, and doing other things that are in your sphere of control that might make you feel a bit more resilient. 

Yes, that is colluding with the situation, but if you have no other choice, looking after yourself is always in your power. 

The other thing you can do is to go to your manager and say, “I noticed that so and so has the opportunity to do X. I would like to know how I could have that opportunity, because it's an area of development for me.” 

You can make an observation about the fact these opportunities exist, and you can make a request, saying: “I would like some of that,” in a way that’s not a demand, not a threat, and not judgmental.

It's not a good idea to say to your manager, “it’s easy to see you've got favourites” - that is unlikely to play well. But you can say, “Is there a way that you can make it clear how I could qualify for that? Can you explain how I might have that opportunity?”

What you really want is the same opportunity to develop. Once you know what you need, you can go to your manager and say, “I’m feeling a bit left behind, I want to be able to grow and develop, can you give me some guidance as to how I could have that opportunity myself?”

8. My manager can't see I'm drowning, when I tell her she thinks I lack commitment

What's critical in these situations is being as really clear as you can about what you've got on your plate, because that might not be clear to the people around you. 

One of the ways you can do that is to write down all of the things that you are doing. All the tasks and all the projects. Map it all out - using cards, or post-it notes, or lists - identifying how much time you are spending on each thing. Then work out what it is that you think needs to happen next on each one, and what is blocking or enabling those next steps.

If you are drowning, you’ll be feeling out of control and be worrying that you’re missing something. You probably will be missing things, which will just make you feel even worse. You'll probably be working in a really reactive way just shooting after the latest crisis. You're not solving the problem. 

Stopping and doing a helicopter view of everything that you've got on would be really good for you, never mind your boss. 

Having got everything out of your head, it will help you feel better. And then you can prioritise: what are the most important things that you have to do? How much time is it going to take? And when could you do them? 

Then get your calendar out, and start looking at when you can do things. That is beginning to take some control over this. 

You might feel immediately better and think, “I can do these things.” Or you might realise, “there is just not enough time in my week to do all this stuff. I'm back-to-back. I’ve got no time to think. I’ve got no time to answer email. I’ve got no time to go for a wee. So it's not going to work.”

Once you’re clear on this, you're ready to go to your manager. 

You can then say to them, “I'm feeling completely overwhelmed and anxious. Look at all of my work. I think these are my priorities, but they don't fit into the time I have. What I need is some of this work taken away or additional support.”

If you've done the prep work, then it should help your manager see what's going on. They might say, “You're doing X, Y, Z that are not important, I don't need you to do those. Stop doing those. A, B, C are the most important things.”

Or they'll say, “Okay, I can really see that there's a lot there.”

That's how we would recommend approaching it - with some evidence, which requires you to do some preparation.

9. My boss talks too much in meetings

This is another opportunity to give feedback to your boss. 

You’re probably feeling disenfranchised, that you haven’t got any agency and that you’re not being listened to. You may not feel safe to speak up. 

However bosses and managers often say they feel frustrated when people don’t speak in meetings and because they hate the silence, that can be one reason why they speak a lot.

The question I would have for you is, why don't you speak more? Is it because you're frightened? Is it because you can't get a word in edgeways? Are you new to the team? Is there another dynamic that affects your confidence to participate?

And is it just you? Are you being overlooked every time? Maybe you're a woman and you can't get a word in because people always talk across you, or worse, someone else mansplains what you’ve said and takes all the credit. 

It’s not entirely your boss’s fault, but largely it is. 

To address this, you could give feedback to your boss as part of a 360-degree review, or you could look for an opportunity to have a one-to-one with them. I’d say something like, “I noticed that not everyone is speaking in meetings and you're speaking a lot. I would like to speak but I don't feel I get a chance. I wonder if you've noticed that?" …and see where that conversation goes. 

It could be an issue about how meetings are chaired, perhaps there are some deeply entrenched patterns about loud and quiet voices in the group.

In that case, you might be able to propose different meeting formats. For example, you could say, “I've noticed not all of us speak as much as others. I was wondering if we could try some different techniques?” 

One technique you could try is a round: a really simple idea where you go round the table and everyone gets to say what they think, one after the other, without interrupting each other. 

Another technique if people are frightened to talk because it's a big meeting with lots of power around the table, is to split the discussion into smaller groups. The way to do this is to first ask everyone to write down what they think and then chat in pairs before feeding back to the whole group. If it's a big group, from pairs you go to fours, the fours discuss it and swap notes and do a bit of calibration. And then one person from each four feeds back to the whole group. You’ll get more collective input in that way. 


You may have other difficult issues to feedback on, but if you follow the approaches to giving feedback shown above, you'll find thoughtful and non-threatening ways to help you and your manager have a better relationship and make your own experience of work a more pleasant and enjoyable one. 

To find out the hardest things to feedback on to your colleagues, and how to do it click here.

One way to make giving feedback easier is to run a 360-degree review. If you’re looking for good 360 review software that supports the growth of the people in your organisation: have a look at tools like AdviceSheet.

AdviceSheet has:
  • Transparent pricing
  • Automates the process
  • Anonymous participants
  • Confidential reports
  • Free from meaningless metrics
  • Questions that stimulate insightful answers