my employees keep going over my head

A reader writes:

I supervise a small group of people, and was told recently that they don’t like me giving reminders or asking for updates (or, possibly, they don’t like how I do that). This isn’t the first mention of it, but apparently what I’ve tried to do differently hasn’t helped. My problem is, no one from the group directly mentions it to me; all of the feedback is from my manager. I don’t know if she directly asks them about problems or if they just start talking about it, but it seems to come up frequently. I think it’s more of my manager providing an audience, so the complaints continue. I’m thinking what I’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked because the issues are misconstrued by going through my manager first or part of it gets left out in the retelling.

I’d like to ask my manager to support me more, ask if they’ve talked to me first, and then if they haven’t, tell them to talk to me first before they come to her. This way I get to hear exactly what’s bothering them and determine what solution would work.

Is this reasonable to request? It seems like some of the group like to complain, so is it reasonable to ask for the complaining to be shut down unless they directly address it with me first? Does the answer change if my manager is directly asking them for feedback on me? How do I bring this up in either scenario?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. hbc*

    Bringing it up directly with your employees is good, but I’d also go back to your manager and ask why she’s sharing this information. Ideally, she’d have been clear up front that this is just to help you get the pulse of your team, or that she thinks you should work on getting them to feel better about your requests for updates, or that she thinks their complaints have merit and you’re micromanaging your team. But she didn’t, so you should ask.

    You can also ask her for advice. “What would you do in this situation? Do you think they’re just blowing off steam or is there a better way to get updates?” This might even get you a better answer than asking directly, especially if her management style leans more towards the passive.

  2. I'll say it*

    I’m having an issue where one of the 2 owners of the agency I’m consulting with is having issues with some of the things I’m doing but is bringing them up to the other owner, who still isn’t always bringing them up to me, or does, but doesn’t say why or how he got that info. what do you do in the situation where the person going “over your head” is one of the owners???

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Have a direct conversation with the owner who is speaking to you. You can’t improve on something if you’re getting second hand information about how you’re handling the work. Tell them you’d prefer if anyone has an issue they come directly to you so it can be worked out/improved upon. There’s only so much you have the ability to do if people are afraid to talk to you about it.

    1. To Serve and Correct*

      Contrary to popular belief, treating a collective noun as grammatically plural will not bring the End of Days any closer.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        That is actually a very British thing. Like, “the family are going on holiday” instead of “the family is going on holiday”.

        1. linger*

          Plural verb agreement with collectives is a (minority, but acceptable) variant found not only in British English, but also in Australia, New Zealand, India, and Canada. In fact, only American English editors seem to make a religion out of forcing singular verb agreement with a collective.
          It’s most often seen with collectives where the individual members are all still cognitively relevant. “Family” is the collective most likely to have plural verb agreement; it also occurs, though less often, with “team” (and team names, though many of those are also plural in form). By convention, in British government documents, “government” **had** to be treated as plural, but without such a convention, “government” is usually treated as singular in the other countries mentioned, and also in all other edited writings from Britain.

          1. londonedit*

            Yep. I would say ‘Manchester City are playing on Saturday’ or ‘Oasis are touring this summer’. To my British ears it sounds very odd to hear the more usual American construction, ‘Manchester City is playing on Saturday’ or ‘Oasis is touring’. Sports teams, bands, etc take ‘are’ rather than ‘it’ in British English.

  3. Sharikacat*

    I wonder how much feedback from OP’s manager is from productive criticism, or at least areas that should be addressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair amount of chatter is petty BS that the boss is just ignoring precisely because it is petty BS, but even then, a cork should be put in that kind of thing. If the complaints were that frequent and of substance, you’d have to wonder whether OP would still be in that role, especially if there hasn’t been any sort of “come to Jesus” talk about how things are being run.

    Sometimes, people just need to vent about the tiny things that annoy them about their work and/or boss. That feels perfectly normal. However, these workers aren’t exactly handling it in the best way, so things at that workplace might not be running as optimally as they should.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You vent about your boss to your co-workers, not your grand boss unless it’s a legitimate complaint and can’t be handled one on one with boss. I think grand boss is just a poor manager.

  4. SD*

    Another possibility occurs to me. Are you sure your team is actually doing/saying what your manager reports to you? Is one team member griping? Are all? Are any? Are minor in-passing complaints/frustrations being magnified and/or embellished? If what your manager tells you is factually true, that is one thing and needs to be dealt with in the manner suggested, but are you sure you are getting the facts? It’s worth considering.

    1. Snark no more!*

      This! Plus 100.
      If they are building a case to fire or reprimand, they will embellish and twist what actually happened whether or not the person “complaining” is really registering an actual complaint.

  5. boop the first*

    Is this focusing on the correct issue?
    I know it’s an intentionally vague letter, but this is all the info from it:

    There is a problem between staff and supervisor.
    Staff, for whatever reason not listed, feel like they can’t talk to the supervisor.
    Staff, for whatever reason not listed, go to the manager.
    Manager communicates problem to supervisor.
    Supervisor doesn’t get it.
    Problem allegedly continues.
    Supervisor blames everyone else for this problem while also apparently not understanding the problem.
    Supervisor creates a new problem.

    Either all of the staff and management can’t communicate effectively, or supervisor is refusing to hear it. Not sure what to do in that case but worry that you’re being evaluated.

    Alternatively! What if the problem doesn’t exist? What if the staff never had anything to say and it’s just a cover? If that were true, you should be able to approach staff directly and ask for honest feedback and suggested solution. You don’t have to wait for them to come to you. Bring it up.

    1. Not All*

      After my last supervisor, I hear “don’t like me asking for updates“ and immediately translate to “are completely fed up with being unnecessarily micromanaged to the point it is impossible to actually finish anything because of all the delays it causes”.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Or the group is far too small for the workload. If two people on two projects finish in a week, imagine their frustration being asked for weekly updates on TEN projects that they’re juggling. It’s horrible to have someone demand why you haven’t gone further when you have been unable to put even one solid day on any one project.

      2. iantrovert (they/them)*

        Same. I got out of a role I loved and excelled in because of the incessant hounding for constant updates when my supervisor was swapped from a competent manager to a micromanager. To the point where said micromanager required several layers of literally ticking boxes to say ‘I did step 1’ followed by ‘I did step 2’, etc all the way down through a ~10-step process that flowed sequentially (you couldn’t do step 8 without doing the 7 previous steps even if you wanted to, for example). Heaven forbid you do three steps in a row without stopping to tick the ‘done’ box for each as you went, even if it was in the course of fifteen minutes, because “process accuracy.” Having to stop my productive work to go check a bunch of meaningless boxes so my manager could feel “looped in” was such a colossal waste of time and energy. Before I moved on, I even started interviewing for roles I could do but knew I’d hate (from past experience) because it would get me out from under the micromanager’s microscope. Better to work a shitty job than a good job where there is no trust, in my opinion.

      3. TootsNYC*

        and I thought of it as “don’t like being checked up on because they resent having someone boss them around” or that they’re behind and don’t like being reminded of it.

        Though both could be the case.

    2. Jesse*

      I agree. If they go above you, is it because they are not comfortable going straight to you? I cannot imagine going to my grandboss before my boss. Something is up here and it’s time to find out the reason.

    3. HB*

      You’re assuming a lot.

      There’s nothing that says definitively that the staff feel like they *can’t* talk to the supervisor, only that they don’t. Further, the manager isn’t necessarily communicating the *exact* problem to the supervisor. The staff could be saying anything from ‘Wow, it’s really annoying to be asked for updates but I guess [Supervisor] needs them’ to ‘[Supervisor] asks for updates ALL THE TIME even when I’ve just given her one.’ Or the staff could have just literally said “She asks for too many updates”, Manager relays this, but because communication has broken along the chain Supervisor has no clue whether it’s actually the number of updates, the timing, or other work related stress and the updates were just the last straw.

      Either way it’s irrelevant because Allison’s advice fixes both problems. If the issue is that the Staff has gotten used to going around the Supervisor, then asking the Manager to redirect fixes it. If the issue is that the Staff has serious problems with the Supervisor and therefore require Manager to act as intermediary, asking the Manager to redirect should lead to a conversation where Manager says “Well actually we have a bigger problem.”

    4. hamsterpants*

      Yes to this. LW seems to be casting this as bad employees doing the wrong thing. Perhaps the employees are in fact doing what they need to do to get their needs meet, and LW might consider looking in the mirror to understand why they are being cut out.

        1. Marizane*

          I think it’s one of those things where people are responding to the subtext based on their experience. For instance, do I know that this person is not very good at accepting criticism or changing as a result of feedback? No, I don’t know this person, but I DO know that I can absolutely picture my old boss writing something very similar, and very reasonable like this, but with the context I have of, he did not like listening to feedback, he would get explosively angry, and if he listened to it, would be petulant and punitive. But he would also be like, “I don’t know WHY this person is AFRAID of me?” and ask, sincerely, I guess, for feedback from said terrified staff, and I’m sure walk away like, “Hmm, THEY said they didn’t have a problem, so I guess there is no problem!”

          So, maybe in this case they aren’t the problem at all, but, I do suggest they took a good hard look at themselves because if 1. the staff are afraid to say anything but 2. still have/are talking about these problems with the manager, well, it’s probably too late to really hear that from them. So they have to be really, really honest with them self before they can get to the real answer of: do I have some or all jerks on my staff who are making trouble with the big boss for no real reason or am I doing something that is preventing me from hearing these things and the changes I am making aren’t substantive?

    5. Aquawoman*

      It’s possible that the LW is a micromanager, and it’s possible that her reports are super-sensitive and think a request for an update is a veiled implication that they’re not doing their job or are like LW 1 from the other letter today and read everything through a lens of anxiety.
      It’s possible that the reports feel uncomfortable talking to LW about it, and it’s possible that they’re sh-t-stirring drama llamas.
      It’s possible that boss thinks the LW is not managing well, and it’s possible that boss is just reporting info and not realizing she’s triangulating.

    6. Thankful for AAM*

      If any of the issues you are proposing with the OP’s management style are correct, then the real problem is the OP’s manager is not managing. The manager needs to make things clearer to the supervisor in that case. I think it is likely the OP’s manager is not that fussed about the complaints but it still needs to be clearer.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    They told a manager that they don’t like being asked for updates or given reminders *head tilt*

    I would work directly with your manager to ask what they expect of you and for guidance, since the boss is just taking the complaints and redirecting them to the OP to address after this weird game of telephone.

    It sounds like they don’t feel like they can just go directly to the OP either that or the OP has no respect on their team :| We would find it incredibly telling if an entire department was skipping their first level boss to talk to the bosses boss. Once in awhile that happens, some people just go to the one with the most power and we’re always cool with skipping a level because in the end, we don’t have rigid authority structure to avoid people from reporting issues with people in high ranking positions. But yeah, the whole department doing this is what screams “there’s something more here”. And a discussion with your manager about how to rewire that system is over due.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      “…the OP has no respect on their team” <—this. And it could be one of two things: no personal respect; or it could also be no respected ‘authority’ in their role. Being snarky in response to reminders or requests for updates could come from someone who isn’t clearly aware OP’s role includes the need to know about progress, and why.

      I was in a similar position with people going around me when I got promoted from being the most senior person on the team to managing the team. Due to other big changes at the time, it somehow never occurred to management to make an official announcement about my role change and what I would be handling – either to the team, or the company. Everyone knew informally and I had the title change, so I guess they just assumed everyone would know what that meant. They didn’t. It was chaotic, demoralising, and it took months to sort out the confusion.

      So to differentiate I’d question whether the complaints are actually about a) OP specifically, or b) things that are tied into OP’s remit. Eg:
      a) “OP is rude to me, has no idea how we xyz and I’m sick of picking up the slack” vs
      b) “OP constantly hassles me about the deadline, I can’t get the information from the client any faster, and I’m sick of working all this overtime to get OP off my back.”

  7. AnotherSarah*

    I’m curious about the way in which the boss shares the feedback from the team with the OP. If it’s a formal meeting, where she says “Look, I’ve heard this, and it needs to change,” that feels very different from a passing comment in the hall. If it were the latter, I’d wonder whether the boss is mentioning the complaints as a form of misguided smalltalk or out of the sense that mangers should be checking in about *something* frequently–like over the coffee maker, “oh yeah, Mike and Mary don’t like getting all those reminders. Oh! Coffee’s ready!”

  8. ampersand*

    I’ve been on the employee side of this issue, so it’s interesting to read about it from the manager perspective. My last supervisor was, in a word, terrible: she lied (like outright gave incorrect information on purpose), didn’t do much actual work, didn’t delegate well and when she did delegate, she delegated the wrong things, was unkind to other staff, made inappropriate-for-work comments, and, honestly, she just wasn’t very bright, was not a good employee, and was bad at managing. I started going around her and up to my grandboss when she outright lied to a client to cover up a mistake our team made (it was easily fixable; no idea why she lied), after months of personally dealing with all the other issues and being fed up. Management was aware of all these issues but refused to act on them. I’m not sure there was any good way to address most of this stuff with my manager since she was the problem–though there were times where she made mistakes that I brought them to her attention. She should have been terminated for any number of things she did, but the organization didn’t fire people. Now when I hear about managers whose employees go around them, my thoughts are: 1. Maybe the manager is the problem and (perhaps?) isn’t aware of it, and 2. I wonder if I could or should have done something differently in the situation I was in.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes, this and what Not One of the Bronte Sisters says below.
      If a manager yells or directs snarky, sarcastic comments to the staff members, there’s a darn good reason they won’t go to her. We’ve all had a boss like that… punitive, easy to anger, doesn’t want to have errors pointed out, etc.
      OP needs to be sure that is not the problem.

      1. Quill*

        And sometimes that follows us to the next job, where are direct manager is not of the opinion that truth is optional so long as your team looks good. :)

  9. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    Maybe the supervisor IS the problem. We do know that people on her team don’t like being asked for updates. Is it possible the supervisor (the OP) is something of a micromanager? Or perhaps it’s the OP’s tone that is annoying.

    1. irene adler*

      We have a production manager that folks avoid if / when possible.
      Reason: he’s a “shoot the messenger” type. He “tears you a new one” no matter what the situation entails.
      So folks go to his boss just to avoid being chewed out.
      The times when he’s found out about this, it makes him even madder. He feels there’s no reason for this to occur.

      1. ampersand*

        In an ideal world people who behave like this would not be allowed to continue their reign of terror!

    2. TechWorker*

      It is possible… but it’s also difficult as a manager sometimes to get the right tone. I am in a position now where someone I work with (he does not report to me but I have project responsibility for what he’s working on) can be prickly when asked for updates or clarifications. He’s also made deadlines painfully tight by forgetting to do things and sent incorrect information externally when I *don’t* check up so tbh whilst I try to keep a lid on the questions there is a limit to what I can afford to let slide. There’s often no perfect answer here…

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      After thinking about this, I wonder given the fact they say “supervise” a team and not necessarily manage, there’s a gap somewhere here. I’m wondering if this is a shift-lead kind of situation. I know the words are often interchangeable but other places….they aren’t at all.

      I wonder if the OP isn’t on the same page as what their role is to the team verses what their team thinks their role is? There could be a big disconnect there.

      Who it could be that the OP has been asked to stop doing something multiple times and they keep doing the same thing but only tweaking their approach [or thinking they’re tweaking their approach but it’s really “Okay instead of coming to your desk to ask for an update, I’m going to email you.”]

      1. irene adler*

        Without derailing things, The Man, Becky Lynch, could you elaborate a bit on supervise vs. manage please?
        Or, I can post this question on upcoming Friday free for all.
        Thank you.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s no absolute difference. Some (probably most) people and companies use the words interchangeably. But some companies use “supervise” to mean line management without higher-level management responsibilities (like performance assessment, hiring/firing, etc.).

        2. Holly Deadpool*

          observe and direct the execution of (a task, project, or activity).
          “the sergeant left to supervise the loading of the trucks”

          observe and direct the work of (someone).
          “nurses were supervised by a consulting psychiatrist”

          keep watch over (someone) in the interest of their or others’ security.
          “prisoners were supervised by two officers”

          be in charge of (a company, establishment, or undertaking); administer; run.
          “their elder son managed the farm”

          have the position of supervising (staff) at work.
          “the skills needed to manage a young, dynamic team”

          be the manager of (a sports team or a performer).
          “he managed five or six bands in his career”

          maintain control or influence over (a person or animal).
          “she manages horses better than anyone I know”

          control the use or exploitation of (land).
          “the forest is managed to achieve maximum growth”

          1. ShanShan*

            Bruh, dictionary definitions have basically no authority to dictate how people use a word in the real world and are not terribly accurate for subjective terms like these.

            They’re pretty much playing catch-up and recording speech patterns five years after the fact.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It is really just on the authority granted to each position.

          Sometimes a supervisor is tasked with the daily or shift deliverables. The manager is in charge of the actual team, their performance evaluations.

          I’ve seen it a few times in our line of work but it’s usually a “shift lead” kind of position that’s skews into that direction. You have more leeway for decision making, you’re expected to know more of the big picture than the other workers on the line but you’re not in a position of any actual power to put change into effect or discipline anyone, etc.

          There was some issues years ago when our “shop supervisor” who was really supposed to just be setting machines and then telling people what part we were working on that day, want to discipline someone because they deviated from the plan they set up. We found out then that the supervisor thought they had this kind of power, when in reality, all he was supposed to do was tell the big-boss that this was happening and the actual boss would step in if necessary.

          Nobody went to that supervisor for anything other than to figure out what the game plan for the day was. If something happened or they wanted to question is choices, they went to the actual boss.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Yes, this is exactly it. I’ve worked in a lot of places where “supervisor” meant a senior employee in the role who was expected to train new staff, track day-to-day progress, organize small scale tasks, and serve as a liaison between the employees and management. Where as “managers” set policy, hired/fired, made high level decisions about department priorities, set long-term goals, dealt with personnel issues, etc.

        4. irene adler*

          Thanks, all! This might explain a few things regarding my job hunt and how interviewers see me.
          I manage an entire department but I use the word “supervise”.

    4. WellRed*

      The OP may very well be the problem (they even allude to this), but the OP can’t fix the problem if they don’t know what it is so in that case, the OP’s manager is also not doing their job.

  10. Kes*

    It’s difficult to tell from this letter a) whether their complaints are valid – is OP a micromanager or do they just resent any oversight, and b) why they are going over OP’s head – has OP ignored or not responded or changed following previous attempts to give feedback, or are they talking to the boss because they can or don’t like OP?
    I think OP needs to do some introspection and carefully consider their own behaviour and which cases this may be falling in. It may be worth reaching out to their employees to start a discussion around their expectations of how OP oversees their work, which may or may not be reasonable, but that way they can become more aligned or at least understand how they are not aligned. After that OP may be in a better position to go back to their boss and have the conversation about redirecting feedback to them. Context is important though because if OP hasn’t been good at accepting feedback in the past, their employees may not want to go them anyway and may just feel silenced

  11. Mystery Bookworm*

    I agree with advice to go to your manager and try to get more clarity – these complaints seem awfully vague (and is it the whole team, or just a few people? did they all come together, or separately?)

    However, if for whatever reason you’re not able to get more out of your manager, I think a proactive approach with your team might help. Take it on as genuine feedback, and think about how you can thoughtfully incorporate it. Then be proactive with the messaging, letting your team know that you understand there’s been some feedback regarding how / how often you deliver reminders and explain what you’ll do differently. (ie: “From here on out I’ll try to limit update requests to a weekly check-in, rather than daily” (or whatever)).

    You can solicit feedback from them on what they think of your solution.

    I think this is also an opportunity to be thoughtful about the relationship you have with your team. Do they feel that they can safely come talk to you? If you want feedback to come directly, you also have to foster the sort of enviornment that’s receptive to feedback (obviously, that doesn’t mean you need to take it all on board, but you need to be accepting of it).

    But hopefully further conversations with your manager should clear up some of this!

  12. Work all around*

    Ooof. I feel for all parties here. Its really tough to make adjustments when you have a variety of indirect anonymous complaints (usually months old) that you are supposed to somehow improve.

    Ive also worked with bosses who don’t take constructive criticism well from direct reports so I pass along issues, or large groups of minor issues, to their boss directly.

    OP should also consider if her boss is potentially trying to coach her passively? I had a boss once who would always say the feedback came from someone else when it was really his feelings.

  13. SomebodyElse*

    This one is a little too vague to really understand the scope.

    Is the OP’s boss just passing on info without expecting any action? This would be the best scenario. “Hey, Fergus and Wakeen were complaining that you are asking them for updates” This would indicate that the boss knows there’s a disconnect with the Fergus and Wakeen’s reasonable expectations of a manager… as in “Oh hey, your team is grumpy that you are holding them accountable and looking for them to keep you informed”

    Does the OP’s boss expect the OP to stop holding their team accountable? That’s more troubling. We’ve read stories here and probably seen live in action where a boss won’t let a manager effectively manage their team for whatever inexplicable reason.

    Is the OP’s boss trying to get something else across? Who knows…

  14. indirect success story*

    I’m glad to see this letter reposted! I dug it up a year or two ago when I needed a script for this situation. My boss would listen to and address my employees’ petty complaints rather than referring them to me, sometimes without the full context of what they were complaining about. I edited what Alison told LW to say and it worked well! He now refers them to me regularly enough that they know inherently that they should talk to me first–though he’s still accessible if they really need or I’m not around, and in that case he always calls me if it’s major, and at minimum copies me on the email recap of the conversation that he sends them. “I’m concerned that it’s undermining my ability to manage them if they’re regularly going around me rather than talking with me first” was the key, I think. Thanks! :-)

    1. indirect success story*

      PS: He also loops me in when they try intentionally to go over my head, which I REALLY appreciate. I think in my case he was just inexperienced at being a grandboss.

  15. designbot*

    The point about the big boss being available to hear this stuff is so true. My reports used to come to me so often complaining about my boss. It was a big part of my time, handling these issues. But when I tried to raise them further, I got no traction and was basically told my capital was shot and it looked like I was “gunning for (boss).” So the next time folks brought this up with me, I told them that I was happy to talk things through with them, to help them decide how they wanted to handle it, but that I had no power to make a change in this area and they’d need to bring it to someone else (like him, or HR) if it was a change they really needed. And like magic, the complaints dried up. Haven’t heard one in a month. When you’re not available for sessions like this, it’s amazing how quick they cease to exist.

  16. Kitty*

    If the employees are always going around the manager, that to me signals a real problem with the relationship. They clearly don’t trust them enough to come to the manager directly. I had a manager in a previous job who I gave up on addressing problems directly with, since she would dismiss them or deny they were problems at all.

    I’d suggest asking the grandboss to ask the team why they feel more comfortable talking to her about these things, they might find out ways that their management style is alienating their employees. I certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable answering freely to my manager if she had asked me, but I might have been honest with the grandboss.

    1. Kitty*

      I say this because I think if it was one or two employees it could just be complainers, but if the ENTIRE TEAM is constantly going around the manager, that to me signals a problem with their management.

  17. Wow.*

    Also part of a very small team and when our manager was hired (interview red flags and all), Grandboss knew we had concerns and told us she had an open door policy and we could go to concerns with her at any time. Long story short, this manager is bad. Not as horrible as many written in here, but very much Not Good. She is lazy, unprofessional, condescending, just for starters. We went to Grandboss a couple of times and after the 2nd time, had an uncomfortable meeting with Manager who accused us of “undermining her authority,” which is very much Not a Thing here. We are very independent workers who rarely even have to interact with her (God forbid having to ask her a question – I would rather gnaw off my own arm than do that ever again). One coworker left within the year with nothing lined up, my new coworker and I are considering the same. I’m sure our Manager could write a similar letter making herself out to be a victim but as you can see, there is much more to the story in our case at least.

  18. TootsNYC*

    It’s also important to be sure that you are a safe place for your subordinates to bring feedback.

    I’ve focused on that. Not just making the obligatory speeches, but by acting reasonably when I did get feedback–taking is seriously, contemplating, not retaliating, and changing what I can. And apologizing if I was wrong, or even if I wasn’t wrong but they felt upset about something (not “I’m sorry you feel that way,” but “I’m sorry that this made you feel disrespected or exposed–that was not my intent by mentioning your name in that email. I was trying to give you credit. I see how you might not view it that way, and I’m sorry that my intention didn’t come through.”)

    So I get info from them about systems they think should change, feedback they wish they’d gotten (or gotten differently), even down to “I think you criticized me unfairly.”

    It’s work to be a safe place to bring these thing! You have to show you’re open to change (I think the fact that I would tweak procedures myself, and would also solicit input and feedback from them on those changes, and incorporate it if necessary; and also that I’d tweak things based on something they said, and give credit for that; those helped them feel that they could tell me stuff).

    You have to show that you don’t retaliate or get defensive.

    In the OP’s situation, I’d absolutely start creating the channel for that feedback immediately, under my own initiative. I’d start having one-on-ones, and somewhat frequently until I felt they were starting to feel safe.

    I’d start re-evaluating procedures, policies, and being open about that,a nd also asking for open input.

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