manager communication

​Navigating feedback: How to effectively communicate with your line manager

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Navigating the waters of providing feedback or raising an issue with your line manager can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, when approached with tact, empathy, and clarity, these conversations can pave the way for enhanced understanding, collaboration, and workplace harmony. Let’s explore some actionable steps and examples to make this process seamless and, most importantly, productive.

Empathy and Timing

Kickstart your preparation by putting yourself in your manager’s shoes. Consider their workload, pressures, and preferred communication style. As the old saying goes, timing is key - choose a moment where they can give you their undivided attention.

Be Specific and Solution-Oriented

Generalised statements lack precision and clarity, often leading to misunderstandings and confusion. When conveying an issue or feedback, especially in a professional setting, the goal is to ensure that the message is understood in its entirety and authenticity.

Example 1: Workload

“I feel overwhelmed with the workload.”

This statement, while expressing a genuine concern, does not provide your manager with sufficient information to understand the specifics of the problem or to formulate a solution.

Instead, try this: “In the past two weeks, I’ve been working on projects A, B, and C simultaneously, each requiring approximately 20 hours per week. I feel stretched and believe the quality of my work could be compromised.”

The enhanced statement outlines the specific projects and estimated hours, offering your manager clear insights into your situation. It fosters a focused conversation on addressing the workload while maintaining quality.

Example 2: Team dynamics

“The team communication needs improvement.”

Such a comment can leave the manager guessing about the exact nature and extent of the communication issues. It’s too broad to lead to actionable solutions.

This is a better statement: “I’ve noticed our team often misses deadlines because updates and changes in project X aren’t communicated timely. Perhaps a centralised communication channel could help. What are your thoughts on this?”

The revised statement pinpoints a specific project and the exact issue (missed deadlines due to inadequate communication). It also suggests a potential solution, enabling the manager to address the concern effectively. Ending the statement with an open question opens the room for collaborative problem-solving.

Example 3: Asking for support

“I need more support.”

This statement is too ambiguous. Your manager may not understand what kind of support is needed – is it resources, personnel, training, or something else?

Instead, try the following: I’m finding it challenging to manage customer queries and administrative tasks effectively. Could we consider delegating administrative duties or providing additional resources to enhance customer support?”

This refined statement clarifies the type of support needed, offering context to understand your exact challenges. It lays the groundwork for a solution-based conversation.

Generalised statements, being inherently ambiguous, can lead to misconceptions, diluted focus, and ineffective solutions. In contrast, specificity fosters a shared understanding, enabling both the employee and manager to engage in constructive, targeted dialogues that lead to tangible, beneficial outcomes for all parties involved. Every word, example, and detail counts in enhancing the richness and productivity of professional communication.

Focus on ‘I’ Statements

‘I’ statements pivot the focus to the speaker's feelings, perceptions, and reactions, promoting a conversational atmosphere anchored in respect and mutual understanding. It transforms potentially confrontational dialogues into opportunities for collaboration and growth.

For example, when addressing a workflow issue, instead of stating, “You always assign tasks at the last minute.”, instead say this, “I’ve noticed that I struggle to deliver my best work when tasks are assigned shortly before the deadline. I feel that with more lead time, the quality of my output could improve significantly.”

The ‘I’ statement avoids casting blame and instead emphasises your experience and feelings. It opens the door to a constructive dialogue about workflow improvements rather than defensiveness or contention.

The underlying psychology

The psychology underpinning ‘I’ statements is intricately connected to a sense of ownership and personal experience. These statements allow individuals to express their feelings, observations, and thoughts in a manner that humanises and personalises the conversation. This in turn paves the way for more open and less confrontational dialogues rather than laying blame or issuing criticism. This approach inherently respects the dignity and perspectives of all parties involved, acknowledging the possibility of diverse views and experiences, and fosters a climate of mutual respect and understanding. In this environment, conversations transform into platforms for collaborative problem-solving with the emphasis shifting from defending individual positions to a collective exploration of perspectives and solutions. Furthermore, the use of ‘I’ statements contributes to heightened self-awareness and fosters a deeper, empathetic engagement with others. This nuanced approach to communication elevates the emotional intelligence quotient within professional interactions, serving as a catalyst for enhanced relationships and more effective teamwork.

Closing the Loop

Post-conversation, it’s vital to follow up. It shows your commitment to resolving the issue and allows you to track progress.

For example, in your next one-on-one with your manager, present the following:

“I appreciate you taking the time to discuss the workload concerns I raised last week. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the proposed solutions or if there are alternative strategies we should consider.”

Raising an issue or feedback with your line manager can be a catalyst for positive change, fostering an environment of transparency, mutual respect, and continuous improvement. It's all about the approach - being empathetic, specific, and solution-oriented paves the way for constructive outcomes. Remember, your voice matters, and articulating your perspectives and concerns is integral to personal and organisational growth.

For more insights and support on fostering effective communication within the workplace, feel free to reach out to us at FutureYou.

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