A few days ago, during contract renewal, company's boss asked my honest opinion about what is wrong in the project I'm working at. This wasn't a part of any review or feedback procedure, neither it was along the lines of "tell me if you have any problems". I'm always vocal about problems I see and apparently he likes that attitude, so he asked a specific question.

I replied that I need a bit of time to gather my thoughts, but I have a problem figuring out what would be professional behaviour here. It feels like going behind the back of my immediate manager (the project's lead), even though I do always forward my comments and ideas to her. Should I ask company's boss to follow the chain of management he established, or should I answer his question?

EDIT: Updating with requested information. Yes, I believe there are serious problems and yes, project's lead is part of them. At least the failure of escalating some of my comments to her boss - which would make him less inclined to ask me directly - is an obvious problem on her part. But it's also obvious that I shouldn't be badmouthing anyone, so I'm always attempting to give criticism about the process, not the people involved.

The problem here is between agreeing to report directly to her superior, which is bad, or refusing his request, which could be seen as rudeness.

  • I think we might need some information, like is there any real problem in your current project ? And specially if your direct manager is a part of it.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 7:09
  • I updated the question as best as I could.
    – Red
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 7:32
  • There's a difference between offering honest, constructive feedback and "badmouthing somebody". Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 9:13
  • Really reply to a question from you boss's boss is bad? Refuse his request is not just rude it is insubordination.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 13:50
  • @Paparazzi Well, I am not his direct subordinate. He himself has structured the company so that I answer to project lead and project lead answers to him. I think all communication should follow this structure, though I'm aware it's rarely the case.
    – Red
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 5:29

3 Answers 3


Your company boss probably know something is up - or they likely would not approach you as they have.

Present your feed back honestly, fair and objectively. Document with emails and examples.

Way to many people are afraid of stepping on other peoples toes, even when change is needed for the organisation to prosper.


We don't know if there are any problems, or how serious they might be.

My policy has always been that unless it's my role to be doing so, I don't complain outside the usual hierarchy unless its an extreme situation.

So ask yourself a question, what will complaining about XyX achieve for me personally, beyond possibly putting myself in the firing line? The important part is 'me' not the project. There is already a person who needs to worry about the project. Pre-empting his/her responsibilities shouldn't be taken lightly, you're not getting their paycheque.

If you see an advantage in doing so, then by all means complain, if not, then be noncommittal. If pressed I'd say words to the affect that I don't see the whole picture, team lead CCC would be a better person to ask.


A manager has asked you your honest opinion.

Replying with your honest opinion is not complaining or badmouthing.

You can choose not to be transparent, of course. It is not your "duty".

From what you explain I believe that this manager smells the problem (project lead), which is why he is asking you. If you do believe your project lead is part of the problem then I don't see why you should not say it.

After all we love to complain about our managers when they are bad. So why not do something about when the opportunity arises?

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