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Submitted by tiomikel on


Can someone reconcile what appears to be contradicting advice in podcasts?

I have been practicing the routine of requesting feedback from my directs as advised in the podcast: How to Receive Feedback. I have also recommended MT to my directs in developing their managerial skills. One of my directs just listened to the cast: Do NOT give feedback to your boss. He points out that this cast advises you never give feedback to your boss even if the boss says it's welcome and okay (which I have been doing).

Mark and Mike - in particular I'm interested in how you all reconcile that. Open to others opinions of course.

It's not a big problem as I have been pleased that my directs HAVE been providing me feedback both affirming and readjusting. I have consistently been neutral in the reception and said thank you. Some of the feedback has led to changes in my practice.




cim44's picture
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My understanding is that the MT recommendation is that you not give your boss feedback in the MT 4 step feedback model.

They suggest (although do not go so far as to recommend) that if you give a, let's call it suggestion, to your boss that you use steps 2 and 3 of the MT 4 step feedback model.

My personal feeling is that the step 2 and 3 is a good way to go because you need some way to communicate to your boss how what is happening / what they are doing is impacting you, even if they elect not to change what they are doing.

tiomikel's picture
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I agree and that makes sense. Thank you.

However, the cast seems unequivocal in not providing any feedback whatsoever. And, I'm not asking because I'm wondering how to give feedback to my boss. He doesn't ask me and I don't give it.

Rather, I am trying to encourage my directs to give me feedback as their boss and one - with whom I shared the MT resource - pointed out the guidance to never give your boss feedback.

I could explain to him that they just meant the actual feedback model but I'm not certain if that is accurate.


AppleJack's picture
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or at least read the comments to the podcast, "How to receive feedback" was an April's Fools joke.

tiomikel's picture
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You can see in next comment that I was mistaken about the title of the confusing cast. I was not referring to the April Fool's podcast. I was referring to another one and still am left with my original question.

thanks again,


tiomikel's picture
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This is my fault - I gave the wrong title for the cast that I found contradictory. What I meant was How to Ask for Basic Feedback (Mar 2, 2007), not the April Fool's cast titled How to Receive Feedback (although I know that was what I mistake).

Now I'm left with my original cast says Never give feedback to your boss and another says there are approaches to seek feedback from your directs. Still seems like a direct contradiction. Can't tell one constituency to seek feedback and then tell the others don't give it.


buhlerar's picture

It's not really contradictory -- you are still encouraged to ask for feedback, while at the same time advised not to give it to your boss.  So maybe your directs have been tipped off and you won't get feedback.

But let's define the boundaries of that dilemma -- you are only encouraged to withhold feedback about your boss's behavior.  Certainly MT guidance does not say that you should never share your opinion or that you should avoid being sucked into any brainstorming session.  Simply that there is risk in criticizing your boss directly (I use the work "criticize" because that's the risk -- that your boss doesn't take it in the right spirit).

What I'd suggest is that you narrow your question to a specific area.  For example: "do you have any suggestions on how we could improve our cycle time on process XYZ?"  Or "I'm thinking we could improve the way we run <insert meeting title here> -- can you do a little research and come up with some suggestions on how we could make it more productive?"

You might strike out if you ask "what can I do better as a manager?" but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask.  If you're sincerely open to feedback, and ask for it, even if your directs are too smart to fall for it you still help to improve the relationship.

lomolover's picture

The casts (more than one) clearly states that you shouldn't give unrequested feedback to your boss. "You can't manage your boss". But there is no conflict giving feedback where feedback was requested.

tiomikel's picture
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What you say may be true in practice but it is not what the advice says in the two podcasts. I still think there is a basic contradiction that no one has resolved except to say it's a contradiction. Functionally, it's not a real issue for me in that I have been asking and receiving feedback according to the older podcast. I have found it valuable. It was just that I have been evangelizing Manager Tools for awhile and have had a half dozen people begin listening. One of my most skeptical directs just started listening and he happened to hear the more recent "Do not give feedback..." podcast and he challenged the practice of me seeking feedback. I was caught somewhat unaware. Now that I'm reading and re-listening, I do think these are mutually incompatible pieces of advice. Of course, I may have missed something but don't think I missed what people are pointing out in the earlier comments. It is not okay if a boss asks according to the more recent podcast.

From the shownotes:Do NOT Give Feedback To Your Boss

3.Don’t Believe It When They Say It’s Okay

"Don’t believe your boss. DO NOT. We know of too many horror stories of professionals who have been ruined by openness to a weak insecure boss. Many of the bosses most likely to ask for input are the ones who will handle it the worst."

Meanwhile, I am following the guidance from the podcast: How to Ask for Basic Feedback (Mar 2, 2007)

1. Systematically ask for feedback over a period of 3 months.

"I recommend you end almost every one on one with a simple question, "Anything I can do better, or differently? Anything I need to stop? Happy to hear feedback."



naraa's picture
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 Michael, i share your difficulty reconciling the two advices.  

I can understand the perspective of the newer cast with advice not to give feedback to the boss.  I have been given feedback by directs and i have had to make a concious effort not to hold that unconciously against the direct.  Once i was able to truly accept the feedback though it has greatly improved the effectiveness of the work relationship.

Once, at the first Job i had, my boss comes into our room and says: "i am going to be fired today, after the things i have said i Will be fired.". She didn't get fired and years later the manager was promoted to director and She was promoted to manager.  One of the reasons for her being promoted according to the manager was because She had the guts to say to his face what everyone else would say on his back.  He said he knew he could count on her to be truthful and say what needed to be said even if She ran the risk of loosing her own Job.

I don't know if it was That experience That profoundly shaped me, plus advice if i recall correctly in manager tools that one should never say something about some one to some one else one does not have the courage to say to the person directly that i have always made an effort to be direct and straight forward also to my boss.

I don't know if i have been lucky to work to bosses which cultivate the principle That "nothing you say Will ever be hold against you" or if i actually helped cultivating it too.

I think a podcast here entitled "if not feedback to the boss then what" giving some directions on how to say what needs to be said and in a format different then the feedback model would come in pretty handy to clarify the confusion.  I admit i am a bit confused.


tiomikel's picture
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Thanks, I am comforted to have a fellow traveler in confusion. I have had bosses who used feedback against others and I've had bosses I have greatly admired to whom I felt I could say anything. I hold the latter as my role models and strive to be the same. Like you, I also have noticed an inner twinge when I've received feedback and had to work consciously sometimes to not hold it against my directs. It gets easier over time.

thanks again,


acao162's picture

I don't find the advice contradictory at all.  If I ask a direct, what can I do better/differently to help them, especially in the context of an O3, I'm open to hearing things like (actual examples of what my directs have said)

- I've found when I get the payables from you prior to noon, I have an easier time meeting the deadlines you've set for me.

- Would I be able to take over ___ task from you?  You seem really stressed and busy & I am really interested in learning about ____

- I didn't like how (insert super-awful customer experience) was handled.  I have some ideas on how we could prevent that.  (and yes, I'm the one who handled the customer, very badly.  It stung, but she was totally right & the process improvements solved a multitude of problems)

The point is, my direct didn't arrive at my door with "Can I give you some feedback?"  She didn't say "when you _____here's what happens"  We were having an honest conversation about how I could help her work better.  It wasn't feedback about me, it was still about her.

I challenge my boss on a regular basis, with different ideas, opinions and tactics.  I'm not afraid to say "I think this isn't going to work" and then I back up that statement and wait for instruction.  It might be "too bad".  In that case, I don't say "When you speak to me in a curt tone, here's what happens....." 

We don't manage our boss, we don't give feedback to the boss.  I am positive if I ever asked my boss if I could give her some feedback it would be one of my last days at work.  It's unprofessional.  If you have a concern with something, you ask to talk about it.  You frame the concern in how it affects you/your efficiency or how it might affect the company.  (Example - VP of Sales always seems to call before 9:00 a.m.  If you are delayed coming in, how would you like us to handle her? - rather than, "When you are late, here's what happens....)


tiomikel's picture
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I definitely see your point in making a distinction between "being open to hearing things" and asking for feedback vs. going to your boss and running a feedback model on her. That may be the difference focused upon in the two different podcasts.

Just having attended the MT Conference (EMC), I also learned from Mark that he is always speaking to MT practitioners as the audience and assuming the folks he is talking about (i.e., one's boss) is not necessarily an MT follower. So, it also makes sense when he's not talking about  a boss who is listening and practicing the podcast guidance.

thanks for the examples. They make great sense.


sandrus's picture
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Thank you for the fabulous summary and teaching. - your directs are right on the money!  And thank you to Michael for hanging in there with the question!

jeffbissell's picture

Thank you for this stream of comments on receiving feedback from directs.  I am interested in hearing from my directs to allow me to understand how I am missing the mark as a leader.  Also, our organization uses 360 feedback surveys which can result in some surprises.  I believe that when receiving suggestions and learn when directs believe better behavior would help them -- a manager must make every effort not to use the comments against their directs in any way.  I realize this may be hard but feedback is a gift and perhaps better to hear from a direct rather than from HR.  My coach suggested that direct feedback be weighted to recognize that directs will likely be "gentle" with their comments -- and as Mark reminds me -- realize that I have "boss" written across my forehead when receiving feedback.

Jeff Bissell