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  • Tori Hollingworth

Managing Up: How to Prepare Upward Feedback That Sets You Up For Success

If done thoughtfully, upward constructive feedback improves communication, increases trust and boosts team morale in the workplace.

In an ideal world your boss welcomes, and sometimes even requests, feedback from you. In a less than ideal world, your boss doesn’t want your input and will react negatively to your feedback…. and their defensive reaction could potentially boomeranging back onto you, making your professional life uncomfortable or downright miserable.

In order to avoid long-term harm, I always remind my clients the golden rule of giving upward feedback:

Mindful Preparation Before Feedback Communication!

It’s important to carefully weigh the benefits vs. the potential risks of delivering feedback to your boss. If you decide to go ahead with giving upward constructive feedback, you need to prepare thoroughly in order to ensure that the feedback is both delivered and received well.

A good starting point for this process is to be honest with yourself and think through a series of questions that will help you determine a customized approach. A simple four-step process that I call The 4 F’s of Delivering Feedback is a great tool for guiding yourself through the prep process BEFORE you speak with your boss.

Strategize with the 4 F’s Before Delivering Feedback

  • Feeling

  • Framework

  • Facts

  • Follow-up


Who is your boss, and how are they motivated?

  • What type of relationship do you have with your boss?

  • What is your rapport/trust level?

  • How is your boss motivated? You can frame and align the feedback around those goals he/she has for themselves.

How do you expect them to react?

  • Put yourself in their position

  • Consider their behavioral history. -- How have they handled feedback in the past at meetings, from clients or from colleagues?

  • Does your boss tend to be open to suggestions and critiques, or do they easily slip into a “defensive mindset” and act as if they are being attacked when provided with honest input? If the answer is the latter, then maybe the idea of giving feedback in this manner should be reconsidered.


How will you organize your delivery so that it sounds logical to your boss?

  • How will you open the conversation?

  • How will you organize the message?

  • Brainstorm solutions to offer your boss during the process (be proactive!)

  • What actions do you ideally want to come out of the feedback?

  • How will you close in a constructive manner that will leave your boss feeling better about the feedback and a path forward?


What factual information will you use to support the messaging of the feedback?

  • Ensure that the feedback is constructive

  • Provide facts vs. feelings

  • Brainstorm specific examples of situations, statements or actions that will support your feedback

  • If available, utilize factual data to support your claims (such as sales numbers, retention stats, etc.)


How will you close in a way that will ensure that the feedback actually has a lasting impact on your boss?

  • How will you assure your boss that you will continue to support them going forward?

  • Ideally, what actions could be suggested as next steps?

  • How will you encourage your boss to” buy-in” to the idea of a follow-up?

Do you work for someone who is not open to the thoughts, ideas or suggestions of others? You are not alone. If this is the case, look for ways to anonymously give feedback such as encouraging 360 reviews for all in the workplace from HR.

Delivering constructive feedback upward is never easy. However, if thought through carefully and delivered in an effective manner, it can be worthwhile endeavor that not only improves workplace communication, but also can strengthen your relationship with your boss and, in tern, increase their impact as a leader.

Tori Hollingworth is a public speaking and executive communication coaching specialist for individual, large group, small group presenters and communicators to increase delivery effectiveness and messaging impact. Engagements are highly customized with feedback focused on the speaker’s strengths, areas of improvement, how the speaker looks and sounds, organization, and messaging. Attention is placed on communication impression and tips, tools and techniques to move each individual to the next level of effectiveness.

She can be contacted at: or or on linkedIn at

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