In this week’s HR Headaches post we discuss how, as a member of your HR team, to give difficult feedback to managers who have more experience or seniority than you.
As a member of any HR team, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re asked to give difficult feedback to an employee who is either more experienced or more tenured than you within your organization.
You may be feeling worried about how this feedback will be received, especially coming from someone less experienced. If this is causing you any sense of panic, remember that these moments can also serve as a great opportunity to flex your leadership and authority within your role.
If you’re facing any kind of imposter syndrome as you think through how to go about addressing this situation, remember that Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he started Facebook! Here are some tips we have for giving feedback to managers with more seniority than you.
Practice confidence in your own experience (even if you’re faking it!)
If you’re needing a confidence boost, remember that leadership does not have an age requirement. There are junior leaders making lasting impacts across every company, just as there are more senior ones too. Rather than focusing on your seniority in comparison to managers, focus on your behaviors, core values, and your ability to influence and make change. This is what leadership is really about!
Next, it is important to speak from a place of humility, showing respect for the manager’s experience and opinion. This must also be balanced by not undercutting yourself, or selling your own experiences and opinions short. Remember, as a member of the HR team, your focus and specialization will be unique to the employees which you support, so do your best to anchor yourself in that and help guide people towards improvement.
Speak from a place of humility, showing respect for the manager’s experience and opinion. This must also be balanced by not undercutting yourself, or selling your own experiences and opinions short.
While you want to be supportive, it is important to remain firm, and not let people within the company push you around. This might mean expressing disagreement in a respectful way, saying “no” when appropriate, or pushing back and clarifying/questioning requests that come in. It may also mean that you need to educate others around you, so don’t be surprised if your employees don’t get the message on the first try.
Respect the manager’s experiences and what they bring to the table
As we mentioned above, it is important to remain humble in these conversations. If you are giving a manager a piece of feedback that may be negative, try and see what you can both learn from them situations. For example, you can ask them questions like:
- What is something that we might have missed here?
- What do you think we can do as an organization to help the situation?
- How have you handled this in the past?
Once you’ve given the feedback and asked some probing questions, you can also follow up by asking if they may have any feedback for you. It’s always important to show that you respect their point of view and demonstrate that you’re interested in hearing what they have to say.
It is also important to remember that these people have gotten to where they are for a reason, so be prepared for your feedback to be challenged.
Focus on how you deliver feedback
Remember to focus on the facts, and remove any personal feelings from the conversation.
The saying, “It’s not what you say, rather, how you say it”, can be particularly true when delivering difficult feedback to anyone. We must always be diplomatic with our words and choose them carefully as nobody likes hearing that they are doing a bad job, especially those in a leadership role. Remember to focus on the facts, and remove any personal feelings from the conversation.
If you are struggling with formulating your feedback, consider using the “Situation-Behavior-Impact” model. This means that in your feedback, you should describe the:
- Situation: “last week at the all-hands meeting”
- Behavior: “you interrupted Michelle as she was giving a presentation”
- Impact they had: “so Michelle was not able to finish presenting her points that were needed for the team to hear”.
Once you’ve given the feedback, you can make a suggestion on what the expectations are going forward.
It is also important to think about what medium you are giving your feedback through. For example, if you deliver negative feedback over Slack or email, the tone may be lost, and the words can feel harsher. While it may be easier for you to deliver the message that way and not face the person’s reaction, this is not always the most beneficial thing to do for any challenging interpersonal conversation.
Remember that it’s okay to feel a little awkward in these conversations. This is a completely normal feeling and by bringing it to your awareness, you can lessen the power that it has over you! What tips do you use in these scenarios? Let us know!