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I have been a manager for about two years in the software field. Over the last two years, feedback from my employees and VP has been conflicting but consistent. I've been told I don't speak up enough and should be more assertive. On the flip side, I've been told I am too direct. I've been trying to resolve this feedback for two years, but I either go one way or the other too far.

Has anyone successfully balanced being too quiet with being too direct? How did you do it?

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    Are both comments coming from both sides or is it different feedback from above and below? – Bowen Jun 26 '15 at 5:11
  • Doesn't answer your question, but I doubt your colleagues will ever be 100% satisfied. – Edwin Lambregts Jun 26 '15 at 7:17
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Being assertive and being direct are not the same thing. It sounds like perhaps you need to speak up more, but use polite words at the beginning and ending of conversations, more pleases and thank yous, and maybe even a bit of non-work conversation.

Something like the difference between "I need the TPS report by 3pm." and "Joe, Are you super busy? I need the TPS report by 3pm, and I'd like you to do it, if you're available. What else are you working on?"

But, since that's really just a guess what is going on, your better bet is to ask (in a non-blunt way). "You've said that I need to be more assertive, and yet when I asked for that TPS report, you said I was too direct. Could you give me some guidelines on how I should ask for it in a way that is assertive enough but not so direct?"

If they can tell you in a way that is consistent, you have your answer. If they hem and haw, and can't really come up with anything definitive, then your only option is to try to find some mid way that balances their complaints on either side, knowing that perhaps there isn't a true balance, because they are inconsistent.

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It looks like those who say you are too direct and those who say you should be more assertive are not the same set of people. My guess at this point is that your subordinates say you are too direct while your VP says you are not assertive enough. If you don't know who said what about you, you won't resolve anything. Your first task is, of course, to find out who said what about you.

The sum total of the feedback is inconsistent but those individuals who gave you their feedback are VERY consistent in how they evaluate you. And their evaluation of you is no doubt affected by how high they are in the hierarchy.

You've got some detective work ahead of you. How you respond to the feedback has to be tailored to meet the expectations of whoever gave you the feedback. Otherwise, your response won't be effective.

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