Pope, churchmouse or something in between?

How to criticize your boss in a proper way…

Speech is gold, silence is silver

Bosses and employees talk too little

Proverbial it is the different way around and said to be „Speech is silver, silence is gold“ but when it comes to a high quality working atmosphere this saying is actually false.
Thus the fundamental problem of the relationship between bosses and employees is that they talk too little with one another.
This is a matter of fact in a lot of companies and is described in the book “Ohne Chef ist auch keine Lösung” by the psychologist Manuel Tusch, which could be translated as “Without a boss isn´t a solution either”.
In his book Mr. Tusch covers that due to the financial crisis employees are even more afraid to utter critique as they fear to lose their jobs if they lean out of the window too far.

Silence shouldn´t increase over too long

Moreover he states that in working life it is the same as with private matters – when the silence increases over too long the relationship could easily topple.
This results in a poisoned working atmosphere, a depressed mood and decreases the performance of the employees.
The opinion of Mr. Tusch is supported by the Havard-Business-blog “How-to-give-your-boss-feedback”, which depicts that

“giving your boss feedback, if offered correctly and thoughtfully, your insight can not only help your boss, but also improve your working relationship.”

Let off some steam!
– It promotes your health + company –

Abolish stress and prevent sequels

ImageAccording to a study of the British scientist Emma Donaldson-Feilder
it is

“not only beneficial for your health but also for the company to let off some steam every now and then.”

Thus the study showed that it can abolish stress, if you tell your boss your own opinion.
Moreover it could even prevent sequels, which occur more often when employees are exposed to great pressure and the working atmosphere is strained.
This kind of feedback is not only profitable for the employees but also for the managers, as they can learn how to improve their leadership based on the employees opinions.

Positive working atmosphere

These assumptions were proven with a study where a group of 150 managers, divided into two groups, were scrutinized.
The first group got regular feedback on their leadership qualities of round about 500 employees, whereas the second group didn´t. The managers, who were confronted with their work and exchanged their views with their employees, put more effort in improving it.
This led to a positive working atmosphere in general and the employees felt esteemed and obtained a higher motivation.

Is it the right decision to be honest to your boss?
– Opinions and experiences –

ImageOn „gutefrage.net“ I followed a conversation about the question if it is the right decision to tell your boss your opinion.
Evistie thinks that it is

“terrific and a released feeling”.

Ruthchen on the other hand sees the whole matter a little more critical, as she states that it depends on your boss, your position within the company and the way you are talking to him. However she says that a sensible boss should be thankful for objective critique and proposed changes.
Xyugeloest supports the opinion of Rutchen as he says that you should be objective while expressing criticism. From his point of view the conversation should be a private one.
Regideur and Niklaus both think that it really depends on the boss. Thus Regideur claims that a good boos even expects to be criticized as he knows that he isn´t faultless. From his point of view it is the different way around, if you are having a bad boss, as he thinks that he is god and perfect.

How to give critique?
Some Tips:

ImageIf you would like to hold a serious conversation with your boss about the working atmosphere, his behavior, a specific problem or something likewise you should think about it carefully. Here are some tips, which could help you to end this conversation successfully:
  1. Never be spontaneous and unprepared. As you would tend to act impulsive and you might be far to outraged to remain objective.
  2. Don´t lament. Give concrete critique and try to be constructive. This behavior underlines your sovereignty and shows that you not only blame your boss for certain circumstances but thought about suggestions for improvement.
  3. Use your own perspective. You should avoid “You-comments” and rely on “I-messages” such as “I am disappointed” instead of “You disappointed  me”.
  4. Don´t blackmail. If you extort your boss this could easily boomerang on yourself.

Want to avoid a face-to-face conversation?

ImageJohn Baldoni (a leadership consultant and author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up”) points out:

“If your boss is open-minded and you have a good relationship, you owe him the straight talk.”

Anyhow it might be the case that you have the feeling that it could get you into seriously trouble, if you have a honest an open conversation with your boss.
You might have the impression that your boss thinks that he is the best and can´t stand to be criticized and might even punish you in the end. However it is important to find an outlet for this pent-up rage in your body. If you recognize yourself in that situation the webpage, http://www.meinchef.de/,  could help you to get into balance again. Since this webpage offers you the possibility to judge your boss without weighing yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

Don´t fall for the “My-boss-is-silly-syndrome”

ImageThe psychologist Mr. Tusch declares that the employee would like to earn respect and wishes to have a good way of speaking. The boss on the other hand requires engagement and reliability.

This different request are seen as the main difficulty by career-coach Jutta Boening, as

“a lot of managers just see the objective level but they don´t realize the level of relationship, which is quite meaningful for the employees.”

Therefore you shouldn´t take everything your boss utters personally. Plus you have to be careful not to fall for the “My-boss-is-syndrome” and see everything your boss says and does as wrong. This behavior is childish and not appropriate at the office.

My lesson => raise your voice

Being criticized

Image To be honest who likes to be criticized? For sure I belong to the group of people, who have difficulties with handling critique as I take it too personal most of the times.
However I like critique when it is constructive and supports me to improve my work.
Though I know at times it is the best just to listen to critique I have to admit that I am in favor of having the last word.


During my internship in the “Sparkasse Bremen” I experienced that it is better to raise your voice and speak for yourself in the working life. As you won´t get anywhere with being quite and saying nothing the whole time. Thus I decided not to play the role of the little, smart mouse. And that is exactly the advice my boss gave me in the end of my internship.

It´s your choice!

ImageIn the end it is your choice: do you want to be the churchmouse, the pope or something in between?
Matthias Kröner (Business-Punk)To be able to answer this question I would like to present a consideration from, who followed the following sentences during his career:

“Who gets in from the back, will excrete sooner or later.” („Auch wer hinten reinkriecht, wird irgendwann ausgeschieden!“ ).

This indicates that no matter how you decide it is the most important to remain true to yourself.

Appreciation is the key!

The career-coach, Jutta Boenig, thinks that it is important that the employees are aware of their own strengths. In addition she claims that

you can only communicate openly when your self-esteem is right.

ImageIn her opinion it is wrong to see yourself neither as a victim nor as a competitor.
Even though a lot of people think that you try to butter your boss up if you praise his work – it is supportive for a healthy work climate. Thus in Jutta Boening´s eyes appreciation is the key to an openly and positive cooperation between managers and employees. I think that is true as you can just achieve appreciation if you also show respect and appreciate others.


One response to “Pope, churchmouse or something in between?

  1. Hey Korinna!
    Although I don´t work at the moment, it was very interesting to read your blog post about “how to criticize your boss in a proper way”. I guess that this is a quite sensitive issue because employees are somehow dependent on their bosses and they don´t want to lose their jobs if they say anything “wrong”.
    However, as you said, I have to agree that they should discuss problems to maintain a good working atmosphere which is important for working efficiently. I cannot imagine to work hard if I have problems with my employer, can you?
    Therefore, I really appreciate that you included some interesting links and advices for us in your blog posts. Especially “Use your own perspective. You should avoid “You-comments” and rely on “I-messages” such as “I am disappointed” instead of “You disappointed me”” is a quite helpful advice if you have trouble with someone in ANY situation, for example if you argue with your partner. Using this “you”, “you have”, “you must”, “you cannot” blabla leads to a contraproductive discussion because your conversational partner feels somehow “guilty” with regards to the problem.
    Moreover, I LOVE your visuals: they are quite funny and fits your blog post! Well done 🙂
    To be honest, I have to agree with you when you say “For sure I belong to the group of people, who have difficulties with handling critique as I take it too personal most of the times.” I think we have problems with being criticized because we have made bad experience with criticisms which was not very constructive. Personally, I did.
    Just try to see this criticism as a change for improve yourself. Don´t consider ONLY the bad facts, you also should maintain to aspects which are considered to be good.
    However, do you have some other advices how to deal with that? What do you do personally in such situations? I would love to hear some recommendations from you 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s