Wondering Woman Question: What is the most effective way to give constructive feedback to a manager/friend/co-worker who has very strong opinions and feels they know best?

ANSWER: First understand that you cannot force anyone to change. Additionally, if there is any sort of power struggle, the manager wins automatically. It doesn’t mean they are right, but upper management has already placed them in a position of authority.

When providing any sort of “constructive criticism,” it is important to phrase things appropriate. What you may think is constructive criticism may be received as an attack. Start statements with “I think . . .” “I feel . . .” Statements that begin with “you” are usually received as an attack. Next, be sure to state observations rather than making judgments. For instance, if your co-worker is always late for meetings, you may feel your time is being wasted and judge this as rude. Telling someone they are rude is a judgment. The reality is that you are the one who is having a difficult time. When you explain your difficulty, take responsibility for your own issues. For instance, “I feel like I am not productive when I am waiting for you to arrive at meetings. Should I plan for our meetings to start 5 min later than the original time? Could you call me when you are headed to the meeting so I can continue to work at my desk until you are ready to start?” In these statements you are looking for solutions to problems rather than demanding that someone change their behavior.

If you are lucky, your manager/friend/co-worker may offer some insights as to their behavior and may make a conscious effort to be more timely. But they may not make any changes to their behavior nor offer any insights. Ultimately you are the one who has to deal with the situation. If someone is always late, then change your expectation. While you should still arrive at the appropriate time, bring other work with you that you can do while you are waiting so you no longer feel like your time is being wasted.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC