Never Let Your Boss Tell You How Other People Feel About You Without Forcing These 2 Questions…

Dateline: Somewhere in Corporate America.

The Scene: A C-Level is telling the HR pro who reports to him what another C-level thinks about her performance (hint—it’s not glowing).

The Mistake: The HR Pro in question thinks that since the C-Level reporting the feedback is supportive of her (it’s the other guy with the problem, right?), she doesn’t have to challenge him in this situation.  She thinks his reporting the feedback is a nice heads-up.

But wait.  It’s more complex than that.  Even if C-level in question is nice and has a tone that says he doesn’t agree with the other executive, there are two important questions that HR pro needs to ask the C-level manager in question:

1.  Do you agree with him?  (Ask it even if you know the answer, because it’s the next question that matters.)

2.  If you don’t agree with him, do you tell him that?  (Moment of truth: not enough managers get aggressive when good performers who report to them are getting marginalized and they have the moment of truth where they can say something.)

Some of you are reading this and thinking, what’s the big deal?  People talk *#*# every day in corporate America.  Why should that HR pro box in his/her manager in that fashion?

Simple. Because if you’re a good performer and you allow others to chip away, especially with a passive executive as your manager, sooner or later the spin being put out there on the street can become the conventional wisdom.  You can’t be a spectator and allow others to perpetrate the fraud.

You’ve got to challenge your manager to stand up when you’re not in the room to defend yourself.  Note: This only applies if you’re a high performer.

Don’t worry about respecting your manager.  Challenge them to have your back.  Don’t let a narrative be formed on you if you can do something about it.

If you’re not assertive for yourself, why would your manager feel the need to do it for you?

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. Carol Barry says:

    THIS IS AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE! Many years ago I ran into such a scenario where a new dept. manager (only 30 days on the job) told me someone else had complaints/issues with me. Yet he refused to back up this talk with any specifics or facts, because he couldn’t — he was only basking in his power. Fortunately, my 9-yr reputation was so strong, a C-level executive hired me into his group (promotion) and that “new manager” lasted at the organization about 2 more years. He sure could have done significant damage to me in that time had I not had very strong supporters elsewhere. (Yes, the organization was weak for keeping him on for nearly 2 years.)

    • kd says:

      Carol –

      Thanks for the comment. You can’t leave that stuff unchecked. Show weakness and they’ll eat you – or if they don’t eat you, you’ll just become irrelevant…


  2. Reb says:

    What a GREAT article. 2 quick questions that will rapidly reveal what’s going on and try and unravel the tangled web…. wish I would have had these a couple of times during my career. Genuine curiosity and openness to feedback would be the key underlying attitudes needed to bring to these 2 questions- that’s probably where I fall down. Thanks Kris!

  3. cmh says:

    Oh my favorite! The filtered and ambiguous ‘it’s-been-brought-to-my-attenton’ conversation. “Don’t let a narrative be formed on you if you can do something about it.” Word.

  4. Mary Wright says:

    Outstanding advice. May I add without polarizing my comment that I believe it is particularly applicable to women – who really need to turn their frequently silent supporters into champions?

  5. Alice Peterson says:

    The true meaning of “managing up!” Great advice to put to use immediately!

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