The world of work is increasingly moving towards flat organisations: the hierarchy remains but is much less rigid than in the past. The result is a more direct relationship between managers and employees, where discussions are transparent and the approach is more fluid.
In these working environments information and skills spread faster, allowing a quicker individual and team growth. The obvious result is greater flexibility in roles and activities, but to translate this into a real competitive advantage there needs to be reciprocal communication.
It’s important for companies to develop in their employees a behaviour that allows them to implement strategies and achieve their goals while respecting an ethical logic and human, social and economic values.
When a company has specific cultural prerequisites, upward feedback comes into play. The concept is simple: for a company to function at its best, managers need to receive criticism and advice not only from their superiors, but also from employees at a lower level.
This type of communication and approach is therefore an extremely important lever for growth as it can provide supervisors with a broader view of activities, bring to light ‘hidden’ criticalities in routine operations or improve relationships between colleagues.
Upward feedback must therefore be constructive criticism, without fear or emotional overload, and it must take place in the right place and at the right time, depending on the size, role and scale of the company.
Here are some tips.
When is it appropriate to share advice and criticism with the manager?
In more structured organisations there are regular performance reviews: these are certainly not the right time to address these issues.
Similarly, it’s best to avoid criticism during team meetings, outside of work or in the presence of customers and suppliers.
Small private meetings are more appropriate, organised according to a shared schedule (preferably just before or after a meeting), but it depends on the type of relationship that has been established over time between staff and supervisor.
If the supervisor does not appear sufficiently open to the exchange, it’s best to assess the situation in terms of costs and benefits.
Some tips for positive upward feedback
Is the relationship strong and the manager receptive? Here are some good things to remember.
- Be transparent and professional. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you, perhaps by talking too much, but try to express all concerns and/or criticisms clearly. The key word is honesty.
- Get to the point quickly. Circling around issues can be confusing and lead to misunderstandings between parties.
- Add positive feedback to criticism. It’s not about ‘humouring the boss’, it’s about being nice.
- Bring solutions, not just problems. Do you already have a solution in mind or do you know who could help? Report this information to give more value to your feedback. Only in this way will it be true constructive criticism.
The most important factor here is to be sure that what we’re saying is real constructive criticism. The question is whether the manager’s behaviour is really affecting performance or whether it is just a personal annoyance that can be easily overcome. The answer will be the key to understanding the right approach to take.