Is Feedback from My Manager or My Employees More Important? 

In our presentation, “Feedback Jiu-Jitsu: The Art of Receiving Feedback,” we sometimes get a question from an attendee along the lines of, “Should I ask for feedback from my manager or from my employees, which is most important?”

Feedback Jiu-Jitsu Inspires the Question

Likely part of the reason for this question is that in “Feedback Jiu-Jitsu” two major points we emphasize are that 1) it is important to receive feedback graciously and act on it visibly, and 2) attendees can use the six “moves” we share to help turn any feedback to their benefit. At that point, people often wonder how to prioritize the feedback from their manager versus the feedback from their employees.

Prioritize Your Manager’s Feedback

Manager and Employee

In general, you are likely better served prioritizing feedback from your manager over that of your employees who report to you. Why is that? For the obvious reason that your manager has more influence over your compensation and upward mobility.

Close the Loop on Feedback You Receive

Random instances of feedback from either party can leave you uncertain about whether to devote time and energy to them. Regardless of your approach, it is a good idea to close the loop with the individual who gave you the feedback. You can let them know you appreciate that they took the time to share it with you and how you plan to proceed with it. Depending on the nature of the feedback this might be done in the moment that they give it to you, or you might take some time and get back to them with your plan. Ultimately, it is important that you hear them, and that they feel heard.

Formal Multi-Rater Feedback Is a Real Opportunity

When you get feedback formally, like through a 360-survey, you might receive different or conflicting feedback from different parties. Feedback can conflict especially between your manager and your employees. This differing feedback from your manager versus your employees shouldn’t be too surprising. They likely have rather different interactions with you and the power-distance dynamic is different with each.

Conflicting Feedback from Managers and Employees

It’s not uncommon to see a situation where someone receives relatively high scores from the manager and relatively low scores from their own employees. This occurs when they are managing up or making sure their own manager is happy with their performance. Likewise, we encounter scenarios where someone receives relatively low scores from their manager and relatively high scores from their employees. This occurs when they are managing down or taking care of their own employees. It can also occur when you try to shield them from the management chaos above. Neither of these approaches is strictly right or wrong. People generally lean toward the approach that brings them most satisfaction in their work.

Balance Manager and Employee Feedback

With 360 feedback, you get the opportunity to see how you are perceived by your manager and your employees. Their perceptions aren’t necessarily right or wrong, but you then have a better understanding of how you are perceived and can decide how you want to focus on responding to the feedback. In most cases, the best approach is to balance both. If you lean towards managing down and “protecting” your employees, you don’t have to stop doing that completely; however, giving more attention to your manager’s concerns can help you help your employees more in the long run.

The Best of Both Worlds

You likely want to give higher priority to your manager’s feedback over feedback from your employees. However, you can still make good use of acting visibly with the feedback. With a 360-survey, you can share with your employees some feedback you received and how you’ll act on it. You can even seek their input on your approach. Assuming your action plan isn’t completely contrary to their concerns, they still get to see you being responsive and acting on the feedback you received.

Related article:
Six Guiding Principles for Receiving Feedback