Giving negative feedback to the boss is tricky. Very tricky!
Dan Rockwell recently blogged about this in his Leadership Freak site.
What his advice boils down to is: 'Don’t give negative feedback to the boss, unless you already have a positive relationship'.
I agree with him.
Even then though, it's tricky. Very tricky!
On every occasion I've had positive relationships with my bosses but I can't think of when I've ever given negative feedback to them. As I've got older and more experienced I've offered ideas and advice, but not negative feedback.
During my time in the U.K. I was seconded to a newly created Academy as an Associate Principal for seven weeks. This was November December 2006.
It was an interesting experience: a two hour commute into London, teaching Geography after the HOD Geography left suddenly, and taking a lead in a school where I knew no one!
I got all the nasty jobs like interviewing all the under allocated staff (basically everyone) and making their jobs more demanding. I was also in charge of creating an appraisal system for the staff, a third of whom had retained their jobs while two thirds of the staff were brand new.
These and other tasks went smoothly but my boss was a micro manager in the extreme. She wanted to know details on everything, would always want to offer her two cents worth on everything and wanted continual updating. This meant daily briefing. Daily. By now you know my views on meetings at the best of times right?
I don't work well in that scenario. My philosophy: if someone's doing their job well - leave them alone!
Even though I was only in the school for a limited time and she didn't know me from Adam, our relationship was positive. Although it wasn't the same with the other senior leaders in the school who were all excellent managers from what I could see.
I did not give her that negative feedback about her micro-management. As Dan says in his post, an argument with the boss is a losing affair.
My rationale at the time was dictated by my brief plus the limited time I was to be there for. I wasn't interested in a Vietnam scenario of entrenched positions and worsening conflict which I sense would have happened.
But, I don't know. Maybe I should have. Maybe I was in the best position to have that conversation. Maybe if I did it over again I'd do it differently. Maybe.