Q&A: How do I give feedback to managers with more seniority than me?

Danny Speros, Director of People Ops, Zenefits
Jun 3, 2021

Giving feedback can be nerve-wracking in and of itself, never mind when the person on the receiving end has more seniority than you. But according to Danny Speros, VP of People Ops at Zenefits, that shouldn’t keep you from speaking up.  On this episode of POPS!, Danny shares tips for giving feedback with confidence. You’ll […]

Giving feedback can be nerve-wracking in and of itself, never mind when the person on the receiving end has more seniority than you. But according to Danny Speros, VP of People Ops at Zenefits, that shouldn’t keep you from speaking up. 

On this episode of POPS!, Danny shares tips for giving feedback with confidence. You’ll hear how to approach a feedback conversation as a coach would, and why having a common goal makes all the difference.

After you listen:

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On this Q&A, you’ll hear: 

  • [00:34-02:03] Why you shouldn’t be afraid to give feedback to someone who outranks you
  • [02:04-03:58] How to leverage the coaching method when giving feedback
  • [03:58-04:42] How to approach feedback from the place of a common goal

POPS Star Bio

Danny comes from a family of entrepreneurs and spent 8 years running the family construction business including HR, Sales, Operations and Accounting. He understands the joys and challenges of building a business and learned a lot about how to avoid some common pitfalls. This context fuels his passion for working with other small businesses at Zenefits. Today, Danny taps more than 20 years of People Ops and small business leadership in his role as VP of People Ops at Zenefits. This makes him a great guest expert for the podcast, so you’ll hear from him often.  And you might just catch an occasional cameo from his young daughter in the background.


Danny: How do I give feedback to managers with more seniority than me? 

Didi: Welcome to POPS! The show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people, operations for the new world of work handle. By answering one question at a time

today, to help us answer your question. Here’s Danny Speros, VP of People Ops at Zenefits.

Danny: There’s a couple things to remember here. One. Just because somebody outranks you doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the value that you bring to the table. There’s a reason why employers have people operations and people, specialists and talent specialists within their organization is because it’s an.

It’s an element of expertise that they don’t necessarily have in each and every person. And so what they’re really doing is saying, I want that expertise in my organization, and I recognize that not every single executive, not every single manager, not every single leader necessarily has that point of view, that expertise, that ability, that knowledge.

And so it’s important to remember that just coming to the table, that these are things that I bring to the table. And these are things that I can help this organization with. So having some elements of confidence now, it’s also possible to be way over confident and essentially take the moral high ground and tell somebody that they’re doing it all wrong, which generally isn’t a good way to have them receive that feedback.

And so it’s also important, especially when providing feedback or attempting to provide some influence or a point of view to people who are more senior to. Make sure that you’re coming at it from the point of view that this is my point of view. This is the area of expertise that you’ve hired me for, but also I want to work in collaboration with you.

One of the ways that I’ve done this throughout my career is essentially leveraging more of a coaching method where I’m asking questions. I’m not necessarily telling someone that they should do this or do that. I’m not necessarily telling something that what they did was right or wrong. I’m asking questions to get at what is it that they value?

What is it that they want to see in themselves or the situation or the, the outcome, the workplace, their employees, what is it that they want? How to have this and start to ask more questions in a way of leading them to identify and just come up with, on their own, the way to get there. And to the extent I have a strong point of view on that, sometimes I will offer that directly.

And sometimes I will impose that in the form of a question. Sometimes it comes down to providing feedback in terms of like, After a big meeting, if a manager or a senior leader reacted to a situation or reacted to a problem in a way that maybe didn’t put their best foot forward, I’ll talk to them and just ask them how they felt in the moment.

How did you respond? How did you feel you responded, which have done anything different or say things like, Hey, it looked like a couple of people maybe misunderstood the, the response that you gave there. Do you feel like we need to go back and check in with them? So a series of questions that sort of get at what we’re trying to do.

And then also to not be afraid to occasionally just say, Hey, I think from the point of view of employee engagement or the morale of the team, I think there might be something that we’d want to come back and touch base with them on. And here’s why, and I’d like to be able to help you with that. Can we set up some time to work through that when you’ve got some time?

Things along those lines, because at the end of the day, from a people ops perspective, I’m in this, you’re in this, even as a manager, that’s not a people operations professional, we’re all in this to be a partner with each other. And we all have our eyes on the same outcome that we want to achieve our business objectives.

To give our employees a positive experience in the workplace. We want to help all of our people achieve the best that they can achieve and do the best that they can for our workplace, for our customers, for our investors, you name it. And so if we’re approaching all of those things from a partnership towards a common goal, then it makes the, that feedback a lot easier to give and also a lot easier to receive.

Didi: Do you have a question for our experts? Click the link in the show notes, or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, send them to [email protected]


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