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How to Criticize Your Boss in a Mature and Professional Way

Criticism is part of the work environment and even the most competent of employees know that one day they will be criticized either by their boss, other employees or customers. But what about the boss, how can you criticize him?

According to coach and psychologist Simone Alves, a tendency we have is to make criticism just a report of the other’s defects, which is a big mistake in relation to what criticism really is.

The way we criticize the boss says a lot about our professional conduct, so criticism is a time not only for the employee to communicate their dissatisfaction, but also to demonstrate that they are in tune with the company, with what the company needs and also to demonstrate proactivity.

6 essential rules for criticizing your boss

It is important to follow some principles so that the criticism does not change focus and get lost along the way like a list of the person’s faults. Here are some tips on how to criticize professionally:

1. Don’t be emotional

According to Simone Alves, being too emotional is the biggest mistake you can make when criticizing. Many people don’t have “a filter of their own emotions and say anything”. The excess of emotions does not only lead the individual to choose the wrong words. For Simone, this passion implies that the individual “does not have a perception of himself and also does not have a perception of what happens in the company and with other people”.

Therefore, try to be rational and stick to the facts, always avoiding taking your discomfort personally. Even if you feel uncomfortable with a boss decision, for example, you need to understand that it’s not a personal attack on you. Emotional intelligence is crucial for constructive criticism.

2. Know the company culture and your boss

Does the company encourage criticism? What is your boss’s leadership style? Is he more or less distant from his employees? Before approaching the boss, it is necessary to know the company, what it preaches, and also your boss, so that you can prepare properly.

A more charismatic boss might accept a less formal approach, for example. If your boss is very direct, he is likely to prefer you to be direct in your criticism, without “embellishing” your introduction to criticism too much.

3. “Know thyself”

As important as knowing the profile of the company and the boss is knowing yourself. Are you a shy person? Are you too confident? Do you talk more than necessary? You need to know which personality traits can get you into trouble.

Very shy people find it difficult not only to criticize, but to position themselves, to impose themselves in the work environment, says Simone. It is necessary for them to work on this shyness, whether in coaching or in therapy, because the difficulty in criticizing is just a manifestation of something bigger.

Likewise, excess assertiveness and self-confidence can lead the employee to errors in judgment. No matter how experienced the employee is, overconfidence can lead him to ignore certain fundamental aspects of the company or context, weakening criticism.

4. Properly choose the location of the review

Once again, coach Simone calls attention to the importance of knowing the company’s culture and the boss’s profile. In some cases, criticism can be made in a closed-door meeting, in others, during the coffee break, always assess the context.

Never criticize the boss in front of other employees or bosses. In addition to exposing your boss and providing an opportunity for nasty comments and rumours, you end up involving others in a problem that is yours with the boss.

5. Criticize the behavior, not the person

“The person is much more likely to accept something that has to do with their behavior and not with them as a whole”, points out Simone. That is, instead of saying that the boss is hasty, point out that signing the contract with a particular client, for example, was something rash at that moment. Generalizing and saying that the boss is hasty can offend him, causing a bad feeling in the relationship.

6. Stick to the facts

In addition to being punctual in your criticism, it is necessary to offer facts that support your criticism and examples of what you are talking about. To say that the boss speaks loudly is vague, it is necessary to explain how it negatively interferes with work.

7. Use the sandwich technique

Before going straight to criticism, start with a compliment. Then communicate the criticism and finish by talking about something positive again. This model is not just to “soften” or “dampen” the criticism, but according to Simone it demonstrates that you have an overview of what is going on and that you took into account the whole context when formulating your criticism.

8. Offer a solution

Offering a solution to the problem is essential because, for Simone Alves, this demonstrates proactivity and that you are not only interested in criticizing, but in being a person involved in the company, seeking solutions regardless of whether the problem is yours or not. When criticism comes alone, it can seem that the professional is just complaining and “if you are in this complaint profile all the time and do not offer any solution, this professional tends to be seen as a problem professional”, says Simone Alves.

And the bosses, what do they think of the criticism?

Check now the testimony of people in leadership positions on how criticism should be presented and also on how the manager can create a favorable environment for criticism.

Pamela Mocelin Manfrin, Strategy Manager at Apetit Food Services

“With a friendly and respectful attitude towards the leader, the professional must highlight the importance of transparency in a company and choose an appropriate moment for the chat. Employees must act with simplicity, objectivity and security, making clear their interest in contributing to the growth of both parties. Public, aggressive and derogatory criticism that compromises the superior’s authority should be avoided. In these cases, the professional himself runs the risk of having his image compromised. On the other hand, it is important to know how to express your opinion, even if contrary to others, in order to contribute to reflections. High performance leaders need the support and feedback of their team to achieve better results in both technical and behavioral aspects. It is also worth evaluating whether the leader’s posture is in line with the company’s values ​​and those of the team. If the company is colluding with an inadequate leadership posture, I believe that it is not worth trying to intervene. In any case, to feel good in the work environment, it is necessary to look for companies that offer opportunities and that are allied to our personal values. That way, the entire team is aligned for success.”

Solange Pinheiro, managing partner of Grupo Aliar

“When approaching, the employee must be aware of the subject, have relevant data, mere speculations are not always taken into account. Every manager seeks positive results, people who are committed and committed to their work. We are looking for employees to make a difference, with solutions, ideas to improve and enhance the company’s development. For that, we have to be open to listen to them, analyze them, give space, create conditions where the employee feels comfortable to interact, expose improvements and their criticisms. It is essential to give feedback to them, whether the suggestions are plausible or not, and not to assume the authorship as yours. The employee has to feel like a person who is there to add, not just a number among others. The receptive attitude, cordiality and transparency are very valuable items for the manager to have the trust of his team. People like recognition, thanks, we are a team and we grow together.”

Marcos Sousa, Human Resources manager at Gocil Segurança e Serviços

“ it’s not uncommon, but it’s still a delicate thing to do, depending on the company’s culture and the preparation of both the leader and the employee. I believe that for the employee to be successful in his approach with his superior, especially if it is to make a criticism, it is necessary to present arguments and suggestions that make sense and add, whether in the relationship, in a project or in the leader’s management model . Otherwise, the feedback proposal is limited to ‘disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing’, mischaracterizing the importance of this management and work tool. Regarding behavior, it is important to put yourself in a friendly manner, preferably suggesting a private conversation, so that there is no exposure on both sides. Other important points are emotional balance, body language and transparency at the time of conversation. An approach in a moment of nervousness can be hasty and damage the image of the employee, causing him not to pay attention to his tone of voice and the use of words, thus losing his ethical posture. Finally, it is important to know the purpose of the feedback and make it clear that it has the objective of adding to the work and management, leaving aside any personal motivation.”

Criticizing the boss is a practice that intimidates employees, not least because it is a practice that only a few years ago began to be encouraged in companies. However, it is an important moment both for the company that needs to listen to criticism to continue growing, and for the employee who has a chance to demonstrate that he is attentive to what is happening in the company and that he actively contributes to its growth. With a little preparation, the task of criticizing the boss becomes more comfortable, even increasing your satisfaction with your work.

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