Dilemma of the Month: Negative Feedback From Direct Reports

by Evil HR Lady on October 30, 2018

I am a new manager with four direct reports. I have always had great performance reviews and am in good standing at my company. Recently, my boss held a meeting with my direct reports where they filled out a survey about my performance as their manager. The results were not anonymous, and when my boss shared them with me, he disclosed that “someone” mentioned I wasn’t allowing my team to learn, but rather I was micromanaging them. In discussing my frustration with a peer, she expressed that he is not allowed to do this; it’s an engagement survey and he does not operate in an HR role. Can you shed some light?

To read my answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: Negative Feedback From Direct Reports

Leave your answer in the comments!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jccbeach October 30, 2018 at 4:29 pm

My boss asked my team for feedback about me and then he basically told them they were allowed to manage their own job functions which also signaled to them that they don’t need to follow my recommendations/suggestions/direction because if they don’t like them or me they can tell him and I’ll be told to back off. I like your suggestion to speak directly with team. I don’t want to be a micro-manager, either. Since “the talk”, there are many recommendations I would make and actions I want team to change but I’m unable to broach anything because boss has made it clear to my team and to me I’m to be hands-off. This after I was hired to be “working” manager (meaning back up support for job functions).

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MariaRose October 30, 2018 at 4:31 pm

When using this version of feedback as a review process, one has to realize the source. ( I am assuming that it was a basic questionnaire of standardized answers with limited room for detailed information). Employees have a very different view of the total job that a supervisor performs ( either expect supervisors to be hands on or less involved) mainly because the view is from their position in the total workplace. Also some people are not team workers and are extremely sensitive to any feedback that is not presented as a compliment. I would take this feedback as just a another way to see situation but with a grain of salt ( don’t be negative but ask for clarification on response received )

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Dorothy October 30, 2018 at 4:43 pm

It’s sad but it’s human nature that almost everyone reacts to less-than-glowing feedback defensively. Suzanne referred to this feedback as “precious” and she’s right: It’s rare to get frank feedback and it’s always useful.

Whether it’s comfortable or not, it’s rare and valuable to see ourselves as someone else sees us. Whether the employee is “right” or not isn’t the issue. The issue is that this is his perception and he felt comfortable enough to express it.

So use it. Analyze it. It’s almost undoubtedly partially true. See where you and and he can resolve the issue, whether he’s right or you are or the truth lies somewhere between.

Incidentally, I wonder if the employees were told up front their feedback including their names would be given to you. If not, don’t worry. You’ll never get honest feedback again.

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GreenDoor October 30, 2018 at 4:48 pm

It was pretty crappy of the LW’s manager to say “one of your people says you’re too micromanaging” and then leave it there. The LW’s manager should have followed that statement with, “This is what I see….” and then either confirmed it with examples of where LW was going wrong and/or praised what the LW was doing right or specifically directed her to go back to the team and fetter out more details. I have had my share of managers drop those bombs on me in performance reviews – bad feedback but no examples or direction for what they’d like me to do instead. Very frustrating!

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Elizabeth West October 30, 2018 at 7:07 pm

I don’t think the OP’s manager dealt with it as well as he could have but Suzanne’s advice is still right on, especially for a new manager, as the OP said she was. Often people end up into supervisory roles because they’re good at what they do, but managing is a whole other set of skills. It takes time to learn how to do it!

I’d follow Suzanne’s suggestions. And I also would steer the OP to Alison Green’s Ask a Manager blog. Not only is there a shedload of advice from her and from experienced commenters, but Alison has a book just for new managers that might be helpful.

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