Sheryl Sandberg’s Tips on How to Have Tough Conversations at Work

The Facebook COO tells how to give honest feedback to your boss, colleague and direct report

by Susan Toepfer
sheryl sandberg image
Photograph: Trunk Archive

Having trouble giving honest feedback to your boss, colleague or direct report? “Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others,” writes Sheryl Sandberg (left), chief operating officer at Facebook, in her new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. “I definitely needed help in this area.” What she advises:

Tip No. 1: Understand that there are two points of view—yours and someone else’s.

“Rarely is there one absolute truth, so people who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others. When we recognize that we can see things only from our own perspective, we can share our views in a nonthreatening way.”

Tip No. 2: State your opinions in the first person.

“Compare these two statements: ‘You never take my suggestions seriously’ and ‘I feel frustrated that you have not responded to my last four emails, which leads me to believe that my suggestions are not that important to you. Is that so?’ [The first statement] triggers a disagreement; the other sparks a discussion.”

Tip No. 3: Welcome your colleagues’ feedback, even if it stings.

“One thing that helps is to remember that feedback, like truth, is not absolute. Feedback is an opinion, grounded in observations and experiences, which allows us to know what impression we make on others.”

Next: Pity the Poor Silicon Valley Execs, Sandberg and Meyer

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First published in the April 2013 issue of More

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