Why Do Email Disclaimers Have to Be So Crappy?
The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #93 is "I Don't Want You To Be The Guy in the PG-13 Movie"...

Giving Feedback to Your Boss When You're In HR...

You're in HR - a partner to whomever you serve... Guess what?  That means you're supposed to tell people when they're messing up.  For a lot of us, that's easy when it's employees and even the managers we serve in other departments.  It gets trickier when we have to tell our boss that there's something rotten in Denmark related to... well, them.

If you've been faced with giving your boss needed feedback as a HR pro, it comes in two different flavors -your boss is either a HR professional or a line manager to whom you report directly.  I've always found itAri2 easier to give straight feedback to a line manager I reported to.  After all, they aren't in HR, so the people/culture related stuff you usually coach them on can easily be rationalized as, "well, you know, that's why I've got you".

It's harder for the HR boss to hear what you have to say.  You know why - they're in HR, so they should likely be aware of what you are reminding them of.  Except they aren't.  Is anyone else uncomfortable?

But like the Discovery Channel points out nightly, humans HR people ain't nothin' but mammals.  With that in mind, here's my list of things to keep in mind once you decide to give the boss an "opportunity for improvement":

1.  You've Got to Give to Get - Mix positive reinforcement often - it's a good practice and money in the bank when you need to make an "opportunity for improvement" withdrawal.  If they've heard good stuff from you periodically, you'll automatically have credibility with the challenges you point out.

2.  Timing is Everything - Financials just came out and the division missed revenue by 20%, but you've got "talk to boss" in your day planner.  Don't be a sucker - kick your Franklin Covey binder across the room and live to fight another day.

3. Don't Roll Someone Else Under the Bus - Own your observation, don't say, "Johnny mentioned that you had an anger problem in the meeting".  By putting your observations on someone else, the boss wants to go tackle Johnny, not listen to you about the issue.  If you've done a good job with positive feedback and being there, your boss will listen to you when you need help from them - even regarding their own actions.

4. Have the Boss's Back Once in Awhile - Similar to the need for positive feedback, you've got to be there to take a bullet for the boss once in awhile, or at least identify a sniper before you go into a dicey meeting.  If you've been known to act like a secret service agent when needed for the boss, they'll listen when you have something to say.

And the most important factor to consider when giving negative feedback to your boss:

5. You're Not Judging Them, You're Their Agent - No one likes to feel judged when getting negative feedback from a subordinate.  Everyone likes to have an agent looking out for their corporate image.  That's why you're going to lead with the following - "Susan, as you know, I'm out there making it happen, but at the same time, I'm looking out for you.  That's why I have to make sure you have visibility to the fact that you shouldn't have fired that coordinator on the spot in front of 25 people".

Be the Gladys Kravitz of the office, and the boss will hate you.  Be his/her personal agent in charge of their corporate image, and you've got a chance to be heard and maybe.. just maybe.. get improvement in the area you need.

Finally, always end with the following to your boss - "You wanna hug it out?  Let's hug it out"....


Dwane Lay

One other thing I'd add to the list is "make sure you've put some points on the scoreboard." It's a whole lot easier to raise concerns when you know you've done your part to carry the load. If an underperformer wants to criticize the boss, they may find the subject shifts to their own areas of opportunity in a hurry.


OMG a new dreaded phrase, new to me, at least " ... you have to have visability to the fact ..." !!!! great! what's wrong with "you should know" or "you should be aware" ... thanks for the laugh.

Carl Spackler

As a frequent (past) recipient of "boss" feedback from the Capitalist, I can tell you that the advice is sound and he practices what he preaches. Now if I could only find those strawberries...


How in the world can an HR person evaluate/give feedback to their HR boss?? I can understand giving feedback to a line manager as they aren't in HR, but for an HR boss come review time you know who will be judging who.


I have seen this happen. Although not in HR. But I know someone that had to tell their boss that they were doing something illegal when it came to how he was paying people. Something about asking them to volunteer some of their time to do the same work that they get paid to do. Oh yeah- and asking hourly workers to "flex" their schedule to avoid overtime. He was told- lashed out and treated those who told him very poorly for about 6 months...and kept right on doing it.

Sometimes they know what they should be doing- but are just to arrogant to care.

The comments to this entry are closed.