How To Give Feedback To Your Superiors Without Being Seen As Know-It-All

The best way to give feedback to your seniors without jeopardising your position.


If you work with a team for a certain duration, you begin to understand its workings and also its weaknesses. While it is often not your place to speak up to your superiors, sometimes it may be necessary to give feedback to them. When such a situation comes up, it is better to be honest for the larger benefit of the team to meet targets.

Anne Hathaway would have been saved a lot of misery if she could tell Meryl Streep that she is being a demon boss in the film The Devil Wears Prada.

James Detert, Assistant Professor at the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management says, “Over reliance on the chain of command prevents leaders from hearing the unvarnished truth.” Your input can help your superiors see themselves as others see them and help to make critical adjustments in their behaviour and approach.

How’s the rapport

This decides to a great extent how your feedback will be received. If you carry a good and professional reputation, your boss will take your words more seriously, rather than if you are believed to be tardy or sloppy at work. If you share a good relation with your team and boss, your suggestion has a higher standing.

Solicited advice only

Nobody likes unsolicited advice, whether it is an aunty, neighbour or a junior. It is important that feedback is given only when it is asked for. You come off as a big know-it-all and presumptuous if you give feedback when uncalled for. Remember why Snape detested Hermoine in his class? You don’t want to be seen as a show-off.

Remember your role

It can be tempting when your boss is open to feedback, to imagine all the things you would do if you were in his position. However, your feedback should focus on what you are seeing or hearing, not what you would do as the boss.Detert says, “Subordinates by and large don’t have a full appreciation of the reality of their bosses.”

When in doubt, keep quiet

There is no reason to risk your working relationship or your job, unless you feel your superiors’behavior is putting the company or your team in jeopardy. Instead, look for opportunities to give anonymous feedback, such as a 360 degree appraisal process.

Be honest, yet cautious, when asked to give feedback to your superiors. You can do it without seeming a know-it-all.