Bad Boss BS: “I didn’t mean that”

How lazy language can throw a feedback conversation off track

Four 2d characters stand close to but slightly apart from a 3d bad boss character.

Understanding labels

Bad feedback is often delivered in vague labels. “You’re very passionate in meetings” is the sort of unqualified ambiguous feedback that could mean lots of things. Is passion a good thing or a bad thing? A label like passionate might elicit different reactions and mean different things to different people. The problem with vague feedback using this type of label is that it’s likely to trigger an emotional response. It feels like it talks about us as people, rather than behaviours we enact.

The feedback equation (INPUT = OUTCOME)

Think of any feedback that includes coaching and evaluation as an equation. There’s input (the feedback) and the outcome — some change that the boss is trying to achieve.



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I'm a Creative director at the BBC. I like words, design, data and magic. These are all my own views (apart from retweets. I borrowed those to look clever.)