I joined about 6 months ago and my manager is absolutely great. I don’t have anything where I think they can be better at at this stage. At the current stage, I feel like I have a lot of self improvement to do before expecting anything more from them. What do I say in the critical feedback section for my manager?
No one is unimpeachable in all areas. Even amazing people could have greater impact or better balance priorities. What may be true is you aren’t exposed to all of these things or may not know how to identify them. That isn’t an insult, that’s a realistic assessment.
Is on-call a non-issue? Even joining it when you’re new?
Do engineers feel empowered to push back on unreasonable goals?
Does the team feel like the right balance is being made between paying down debt and new work? (Even if the right balance is there, the manager isn’t communicating well if the team disagrees)
Your experience is a really great onboarding, but there’s like 100 other dimensions and concerns, from cross team collaboration to planning to fighting for headcount (or not to lose it), and so on. Again, don’t expect you’d be exposed to all of it, but there may be a few things that are suboptimal you have seen even if they don’t seem egregious.
If there is no negative, the critical feedback can focus on how they can spread their impact if they truly are the Kwisatz Haderach. Does your team have an amazing planning system that others don’t use? Why aren’t they selling it?
You won’t get any negative blowback if you give no negative feedback, but it’s harder to include glowing feedback when there was no critical feedback to balance it. I’ve had to exclude positive feedback because no critical feedback was given.
Instead of framing it as, "what negative feedback do I have about my manager?", think about it as, "what could my manager continue doing to have (even more) impact?"
I also think it's totally OK to not have any "critical feedback" to give to your manager, given you are six-month into your entry level role.
Another idea is that you could potentially use this exercise to help you increase your own understanding of what does a good manager and good team look like. Ask around - what does your teammates think of the team and their work, and what they struggling with? Is there anything here that you agree with? If so, amplify their voice instead.
Check-in with your peers outside of your team, maybe from bootcamp, to see how their managers are and see whether your current feelings are accurate. There maybe interesting discussions to be had there that could inform your feedback to your manager.