11/18/2014 06:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Should Employees Review Their Bosses?

A Gallup study released in 2012 found that 70 percent of American workers reported being disengaged at work, costing the American economy an estimated $450-550 billion annually. That same poll also found that managers are directly responsible for their employee's level of engagement. Bad bosses are bad for business.

An employee giving their employer feedback isn't revolutionary, and I've known plenty of business owners who ask for it. Review Meeting.png But I'm not sure if it's enough to just, off-the-cuff, ask people how they feel the company is being led. After all, we set apart time for employee reviews, why shouldn't there be something similar for the managers and executives? I feel there should be; it's just important that the review is structured the right way.

Ask for anonymous feedback
I used to ask people for feedback during our annual, individual employee reviews. And, of course, they all thought I was doing great. There aren't a lot of people willing to give their boss honest feedback while face-to-face, lest they be branded as having a 'bad attitude.' But if you actually set a time for your staff to review you, you can give them a shield of anonymity. This year I chose to do the reviews a bit differently, and have everyone review everyone using a generic feedback sheet, which I included my name on. So everyone has the opportunity to 'rank' my performance in a few, key areas, without anyone knowing who filled out what sheet. Not only does this give the people who do have problems with how I run the company a chance to say so, but it also helps show me the general feelings of the office so I can guide my eventual review. Employees that feel their opinions matter are much, more likely to be engaged at work than those that feel as though they are just another cog in the machine.

Hold an actual, office-wide review
Talking to my team has inspired some of my best ideas, and when you're trying to plan out the direction for next year, it can really help to have the input of those who work directly with your customers. Use the general, anonymous feedback you got to figure out what the majority of the office might want to talk about. And when you're leading the longer, office-wide discussion, don't be accusatory -- the last thing you want is to ask things like 'why do you feel this way?' or 'what can I do to improve this?' Instead, use the identified 'weaker' areas as a theme, and then ask them more specific questions, like how they'd feel if you changed a marketing tactic, or the sales process.

React properly
Now, I'll admit that this can be the hardest part. No one likes criticism. And it can hurt to hear that your team doesn't like something that you've been doing, even if it's totally innocuous like playing your music a little loud. When you ask for people to review you, you need to treat the process like you would as any other employee going through a performance review. Understand that the point of this exercise is for your staff to pick apart what you've been doing. If they don't have anything to say other than 'great job,' then there's a problem. Asking your employees for a review is an amazing opportunity for you to grow as a leader and manager. Just keep an open mind, write down any feedback, and be willing to change.