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September 28th, 2008 | Posted by josantamaria in Articles - (0 Comments)

The president of our medium-sized company wants a culture of openness. At every opportunity he has, he tells us to be open to him with our opinions, our feedback and suggestions.  Unfortunately, he is always out of the office that we, including myself who is a section head, never get to see him “walk the talk.”  Our department manager is always in front of his computer or using his celfon.  He tells us:  “Just do your job….”  “You know what is expected of you…”  “If I don’t say anything to you, it means you’re doing OK.”

I was one of a few supervisors who were made to attend a communication seminar by our HR.  I like the seminar very much and I know it will help me develop myself as a supervisor if I get to apply what I had learned.  I cannot, however, apply what I learned without the support of my boss, who is so distant from me, and from us, for that matter.  He’s not a good role model of a leader who develops his subordinates. He does not conduct regular meetings but only when there is a crisis.  Then he gets angry at us.  How can I practice assertiveness skills when there is no real culture of openness?  Giving negative feedback to some of my staff is uncomfortable but I think I can do it.  However, I want to give negative feedback to my manager because he is not aware of how he affects us but find this extremely difficult.  I’m sure I will also benefit from any negative feedback he can  give to me.

What is your advice to me please?

Mr. Disheartened


I congratulate you for your desire to put your learnings into action in order to improve your performance and your leadership.  However, you are frustrated that you cannot practice the communication skills you learned from the seminar, especially in giving negative feedback to your department manager who does not believe in open communication and your own president who is too busy to be an effective positive role model.

If you make the application of your learnings dependent on the positive role modeling of your company president and your department manager, you are putting an obstacle to your own self-development.  Your “if I get to apply” attitude depends entirely on you.  You can be sure that if you don’t practice what you have learned, you will eventually forget it.  What a waste to let opportunities for self-development pass by. You have no control over your boss and your president.  The only person you have control of is yourself.  You yourself said that your boss had told you and, perhaps the others as well, that “you know what is expected of you,” so “just do it.”  I see this message as empowering.  He may have his faults but he trusts you that you are doing your job right.  Obviously, he does not know the value of feedback or does  not know how to give it.

Since you asked for my advice, here are suggested steps you can take to give a negative but constructive feedback to your boss:

  1. Prepare what you will say:
    1. Start with positive feedback.  What does your boss do that help you in your job?
    2. Then the constructive feedback.  What do you request him to do to help you make your job better and which he is not providing you?
    3. Tell the positive consequence to you and to him when he does as you request.
  2. Write down the above so you can have control over the words you will say.

Use the I-message that you must have learned from the communication seminar that you attended.  In the I-message, you communicate the positive behavior or the negative behavior that the other person is doing or has done, and express how you feel about it and how it affects you.

An example of a script that you can give to your boss is as follows:

“Sir, I really appreciate your allowing me to attend the communication seminar last week.  Thank you very much.  Sir.  I’m very eager to practice the skills I learned to improve my performance and that of my team. [Make sure you look happy when you deliver this message and your tone of voice is also happy.]

“It will help me very much.  Sir, if you can tell me in what areas I need to improve.  I know that you’ve told us in the past to just do our work, that if you don’t say anything it means we’re doing OK. [Silence. Listen as your boss responds to you.]  I know that you trust me when you don’t say any thing.

“Sir, if you tell me specific areas of improvement in my work as section head, I would know exactly how you want things done.  In this way I don’t have to second guess you and I won’t have to repeat certain things that I did which you don’t like. [Silence.  Listen as your boss responds to you.]

3.  Request your boss for an appointment.  If asked what your purpose is, simply state that it is a very important matter to you.

4.  Deliver your message, looking directly at the eyes of your boss.  If he continues with his computer or uses his cell phone, stop.  If he tells you to continue while looking at his cell phone, request him again to give you at least 10 minutes of his time.

5.  After expressing your message, say “Thank you, Sir.  I appreciate your giving me your time and for listening to me. I can go now, Sir.”
Goal in giving feedback. Your goal in giving feedback is to communicate your message clearly to be understood.  Don’t expect your boss to act the way you want him to act.  He is free to accept your feedback and to act the way he wants.   If he responds in the manner you desired, this is a bonus.

Giving negative feedback is not easy; it can be extremely difficult, as you say.  However, focusing your feelings on the negative behavior of the person gives you ownership of it.  It is constructive when it is focused on behavior that the person may not be aware he is doing, or may be unaware of its consequence to you.

Receiving negative feedback from another person can hurt us if we do not see it as an opportunity to improve our self-awareness and clarify the other person’s perception.

When someone, especially someone in authority, does/says something to us that hurts us, we tend to simply keep quiet and nurse our pain in private.  But this is a lose-lose situation.  Neither you nor the other party gain from your silence.  The person thinks that what he did was right, and he will continue to do it.  You don’t give him a chance to know himself better, to be aware of his “blind spot” and negative habits and how these affect you.  You are not also giving the other party the opportunity to clarify or correct your perception of him.

Meanwhile, you nourish your hurt in silence as you withdraw from the other party physically, or by being silent and passive in the presence of the other person.  Worse, we usually tell others about the other person.  This becomes the grapevine or office gossip.  Other people develop a mindset (or paradigm) about the other person and will now perceive him according to this paradigm.

One of the three reasons given by employees during exit interview as to why they are leaving their companies, is the poor leadership of their supervisors.  The other two are lack of opportunities for personal growth and career advancement, and better pay.

Being assertive in communication is one of the needed growth areas of Filipino supervisors.  They don’t have the skills or the self-confidence even to give positive feedback; they completely avoid negative feedback.  They are not willing to take risks that will take them out of their comfort zone.  Yet, positive feedback reinforce an employee’s positive behaviors, improves boss-subordinate relationships and enhances an employee’s self-confidence. Constructive feedback corrects negative habits and improves performance deficiencies.

How to acquire skills and develop self-confidence.  Applying your feedback skills to your staff is completely within your control.  Your staff is within your “circle of influence”. Give positive feedback immediately when you observe positive behavior or when you observe improvements in their work, whether these are self-initiated or the result of your coaching.

Correct immediately any negative behavior (such as tardiness, not using corporate attire, using celfon during office hour, etc.) which you observe so that this is not repeated.  You can also give feedback to the president of your company.  If you cannot see him in person, you can send him an email.  Always start with positive feedback and then follow this with constructive feedback, if needed.

As you  use your skills, you develop and enhance your self-confidence.
Self-reinforcement.  Don’t expect your manager, being what he is to give you a “pat on the back” when you practice your skill or when you improve your performance.  Obviously, he has not undergone the same training as you had; if he did, he does not have the motivation for self-improvement as you have.  Give yourself a positive reinforcement, such as a pat on your back, each time you practice a skill to improve your performance and your leadership.  An example of this is the “Wow, I did it!“ feeling.  .Self-reinforcement will enhance your self-confidence and motivate you to continue to use your skills until these become positive habits that strengthen your character.

God bless you.


Josie Santamaria

I’m 38 years old, married with two children who are both in high school. I graduated with honors with an AB management degree from a good school.  My problem is:  I’ve been stuck in a professional path in our company with which I have worked for the past 15 years.  Sure, I get good pay and good financial package but  I want career advancement to a management position.  I’m advancing in my age and I’m getting more and more frustrated particularly since my boss under whom I’ve been working these past 10 years does not at all show any personal interest in me, or in any one of her employees, for that matter.  She is a TOB (a.k.a task-oriented bastard) and all she thinks of is work, work, work! She does not allow us to attend training programs although our HR keeps sending her memos scheduling us for training.  She doesn’t believe in training and considers it a waste of productive time. She is also a perfectionist; she never gives “exceeds standards” ratings to any one of us, no matter how hard we try or how good we are.  She never gives anyone of us a “pat on the back.”  Yet, people development is one of the dimensions on which supervisors and managers, like her, are rated.  I wonder how her boss rates her on this dimension and if she is ever given feedback about her failure to develop us, her employees.  I cannot complain to HR for fear of antagonizing her, and jeopardizing my career advancement all the more.  What shall I do?

Mr. Desperate Employee


You have every reason to feel unhappy about your situation, to be angry with your boss about her failure to develop you and to send you to attend training, and anxious about the prospect of advancement in a management career path after 15 years in the company, 10 of which with your current boss whom you describe in such a negative light based on her attitudes and behaviors.  Sad to say, there are bosses like her.
So what can you do to achieve your career goal, in your company, with her as your boss?  There is a need for you to have a career strategy.

Your career strategy to achieve your career goal, may include the following:

1. Self-assessment.  You might be very good technically, although you write that you had never gotten “exceed standards” ratings, but does she perceive you as “that good”?  Did you ask your boss in what technical and non-technical areas (such as communication, leadership, teamwork, etc.) you need to improve on?  Are you willing to take a risk of being up front with her, by asking her how  you can get an ”exceed standards” ratings because you want to be considered for a management career path, after 15 years in a professional path?  Are you also willing to ask her if she thinks you qualified to be in a management position?  Are you willing to take these risks?  Are you willing to be assertive in expressing your career goal, and asking support for your career goal?  Your only other option is to continue to be non-assertive, to wait and hope as you have done these past 15 years, while seething with negative emotions, which are not healthy.  Pray about this as you weigh your options.

Do a self-assessment of your leadership competencies.  Pursuing a management career path requires certain attitudes, values and skills such as positive regard for people,  an attitude of service for both internal and external customers; value of teamwork; pride in your company, its products and services; etc. Do you have skills to influence people, such as listening to them and being listened to by them?  How is your credibility with your co-team players?  Do you share willingly your technical knowledge with them?  Do you express sincere appreciation for what they do in your team? An honest self-evaluation can point up areas for needed change; attending training programs may not be able to lead to such self-awareness.

I suggest you read the competencies of a supervisor and evaluate yourself against these competencies.  Be open to areas for improvement that you can initiate on your own.
2.  Another part of your career strategy is to find ways by which you can have a positive relationship with your boss.  This starts with being open to see her positive qualities and behaviors.  Her being a perfectionist, for instance, can have certain benefits to her direct reports.  They are influenced to do high quality work, a quality that becomes a way of life; they develop self-discipline; they are challenged to be creative and innovative, etc.  Find a way of giving her feedback on her impact on you.

3.  Know your boss better.  What are her soft spots, i.e. what makes her happy?  What are her sore spots, i.e., what displeases and irritates her?  After all, your boss is your #1 Customer whom you need to please and satisfy since she is the one who gives you assignments, appraises your performance, and evaluates your contribution to her team, and to your organization.

4.  Another part of your career strategy is to initiate your own self-development.  Increase your knowledge: read books, surf the internet, talk with knowledgeable people on how to improve yourself based on your self-assessment.  Read on effective leadership in initiating your own self-development, etc.  How about joining the professional organization of your area of specialization?  How about developing and expanding your network outside your organization?  This can enhance your career strategy to achieve your career goal, inside and outside your organization.

5.  Identify a role model of an effective leader in your organization.  Study their positive behaviors and emulate them.
God bless you.


God bless you.


Josie Santamaria