In the book “Leadership Gold”, John Maxwell says “people quit people, not companies. Employees often leave companies not because they dislike the company or their job, but rather because they want to escape a particular person, usually their boss.

Feedback for managers

Most leaders started out their journey as incredible individual contributors. They have been effective and efficient in advancing through the competencies and hierarchy by achieving their business metrics. While that has surely helped them reach great heights, in most cases, leaders have elevated to the management level without clearing any formal training on managing, especially other employees. 

So, when these leaders come to lead their own teams, organisations tend to find it challenging to inspire and lead them in taking an active role in developing their professional skills. And this is where the concept of upward reviews comes into play. Employees expect their higher-ups to give them feedback during performance reviews. What they do not expect is that they can do the same to their high-ups. 

The best method of transforming managers and leaders into stronger ones is by providing them with confidential and authentic feedback from their own team. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, let’s get a grip on the concept first.

What are Upward Reviews?

Upward reviews are opportunities for employees to share their feedback about their managers and/or upper management directly or indirectly. In other words, employees can evaluate and express their feedback about their direct manager. Depending on the size of the organisation, even the Director of a department or the CEO can receive feedback from the associate-level employees. 

These reviews can be conducted in different ways ranging from face-to-face meetings with managers to entities asking supervisors, peers, and subordinates to evaluate the performance of the manager.

Upward Feedback: what are the upsides of it?

Teams irrespective of their size (20-20k) and leaders irrespective of their level (CEO or Team Lead) can highly benefit from upward feedback. Upward feedback can be used even by the most experienced leaders to re-examine their leadership approaches as well as identify areas of growth. 

It also prepares the leaders in becoming more comfortable with getting candid feedback from the employees. This helps in building a positive feedback culture across the organisation.

Brands are always trying to create a growth and development culture but are often unable to find the tool required for communicating the feedback that helps in driving such a culture. But by incorporating an upward review framework, the organisation teaches everyone ranging from the C-level executives to junior employees that everyone's perspective is valuable for driving company-wide growth.

Upward feedback prioritises focus on self-actualized professional development and confidentiality. This further helps in complementing the standard top-down annual evaluation and feedback approach in the following ways:

  • Deeper Relationships:

As feedback looks into communication, leadership, and professionalism, managers can give and receive suggestions right away, improving relationships with their employees immediately. Managers can also share their commitment towards their team and encourage two-way communication for behavioural changes. 

  • Interpersonal Skills:

While supervisors evaluate hours billed and targets achieved, key management competencies and communication are often minimized. Managers get to discover different and new information when junior associates give feedback about their leader's interpersonal styles, strengths, and weaknesses. This cannot happen in a traditional handed down rating system done by the upper management. 

  • Lasting Impact: 

Upward feedback helps managers gain an insight into their behaviour and leadership skills which will stay with them forever throughout their career. by receiving feedback from their team members directly on how they can improve themselves and change their behaviour, managers can easily tap onto personal growth opportunities which otherwise would have taken several years to uncover. 

How To Write Upward Reviews: tips & examples

Writing an effective upward review is crucial as it can help you convey your concerns and support for your manager. And if this is the first time you're writing one, here's how you can do it. 

  • Convey correct information

Information is the key element in an upward review. Some employees can use this review as an opportunity to voice their frustration about their leaders in an unprofessional manner. Therefore, it is crucial for you to ensure you are voicing your concerns about your leader's performance constructively. This helps your review to be taken seriously and benchmarked for new positive changes.

Employees should take the approach of constructive criticism and not an opportunity to slap the manager. On the manager's part, the review will give them an idea of what they are doing right. More so, they would also know what they shouldn't be doing to avoid wasting time and energy. 

On a boarder level, you can address the following questions in your review:

  1. What should your manager start doing?

  2. What should your manager stop doing?

  3. What should your manager continue doing?

When you include these pointers in your review, your manager will likely avoid doing things that aren't needed, keep doing things that are necessary, and start doing things that they have missed out till now. 

  • Give examples:

Avoid giving vague feedback in your upward view which leaves your comments up for interpretation. When that happens, there are high changes your manager will not understand what you are trying to say. Therefore, you will not get the results that you are hoping for. 

Be as specific with your review as you can be. You can give examples to further clarify your feedback. This helps in crafting an effective review which will deliver results. 

  • Mention the changes you want

Mentioning the exact changes or what you like the most about your manager is important in upward reviews. This helps in identifying the exact areas of improvements that your manager can work on. Besides that, you can also mention the strengths of your manager so that they can further work on maintaining those skills to build a holistic workplace. 

  • Speak for yourself, not others

Always remember that you are crafting the review yourself. Therefore, don't forget to deliver your criticisms, insights, feedback, and thoughts. Don't speak on behalf of your teammates. Put forward yourself and what you think about your manager. 

Write your review using 'I' sentences so your manager knows exactly what you want and what you do not want your workplace culture to be like.

Also check 4 Ways Employee Feedback Can Drive Employee Engagement in Your Organization

Wrapping Up

Upward review is a key tool that provides employees across the ladder to share their thoughts and feedback with their higher-ups. This helps them bring positive changes within the organisation through their managers and leaders. By incorporating a culture of upward reviews, employees not only improve their manager's performance but also increase their workplace satisfaction drastically. Let employee performance management help you set up and run your performance reviews smoothly.