Everyone has heard the old saying regarding employees quitting managers, not jobs. Recent data suggests it’s still true; people are leaving otherwise fulfilling jobs due to unhappiness with their leadership.

So as a manager, how do you know where you stand? As an employee, how do you provide upward feedback without feeling at risk of repercussions? Even if your manager isn’t a “horrible boss” they likely have areas of improvement, and without a systematic way of collecting feedback on how will they (and their leadership) know where to focus?

We’ve all come to accept annual or more frequent feedback from a manager to an employee. But if your organization rates employees, why wouldn’t you allow employees to rate managers?

While these questions may also include upward feedback or improvement comments about how their manager works with their reports, the power dynamic makes upward feedback extremely challenging to all but the most self-confident employees.

Our solution: anonymous upward feedback.  

Pondering this dilemma, our CSM team decided to run an upward feedback cycle. In order to give the team assurances, they can speak honestly and directly to their manager, we set up the feedback to be anonymous with answers routed to HR, not the manager or skip the level. I communicated with the team to reinforce this session was for mutual benefit so treat it as a chance to provide constructive feedback, not praise.

We had 100 percent participation and the team provided great feedback about my management style and/or things I can do to improve my leadership effectiveness. I’ve shared the feedback summary with the team along with actions I’ll take to improve in the areas identified. I’ll also plan to check-in during 1:1s or with the team in 30 days to see if they are noticing improvements in the areas identified.

Lessons learned:  

The one thing that was challenging about this process is knowing the overall severity of the feedback. Without the knowledge of who made the comment or providing some scale, it wasn’t easy to distinguish areas for immediate attention vs minor feedback. When we do this again, I may include an overall rating along with the open-ended questions.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t want your employees to quit their manager, start giving them the tools and information both parties need to mutually improve.