How to deal with bosses with low self-awareness (video transcript)

The first thing is living with the courage to know that you always have to be prepared to leave a team in order to take the high road.

And I’ve only done it once in my career, where I stood my ground and I said, “I’m taking the high road.” And I had to leave as a result. So it’s back to open ended questions. It’s back to that courage of feedback. So I can give you the formula for how you give feedback to somebody who’s not self-aware, if you want, if that’s helpful.

So the simple formula: situation, behavior, impact, question. Okay?

So try some of those things and see if that helps.


So situation. In the meeting today. Because when you give feedback, you’re thinking about the situation, especially if it’s in the meeting three Tuesdays ago, it’s out of left field for them. So start with, you know, in the meeting.


Then the next piece is to give that person a description of behavior that is so objective, so tangible, so lacking in subjectivity and judgment that they can’t disagree with it. When you, I had this example with a team last week. When you put up your hands like this when Bob was speaking.

So if you can get something as, really as concrete behavioral as that, when you said these words, when you spoke in between every person in the meeting, something like that. Okay, so that’s where you stay very pure. Very pure.


Then you can talk about impact. Make that about you. Make that juicy and subjective because you own it. “The impact on me was that I stopped wanting to contribute on this team.” “The impact on me is I questioned whether I’m doing work that’s of any value.” And then the most important thing, because people tend, because they’re so scared, they do feedback like a bombing run. You’ve had that. You have had that. The feedback that was a bombing run. So yeah, good luck with that.


So the most important thing is that feedback is a really important way of communicating. So what you need to do last is say, “How did you experience that? What did that look like for you? How do we need to connect differently?” You need to pass the baton back to the person, so that they have a chance. Because you have to be as willing to admit that you are describing your reality that is not the reality. So when someone’s not self-aware, takes a lot of courage. You have to be willing to say, this is going to be, this is a great example of you are going through uncomfortable before you get back to comfortable. Right? But I’m going through it.

And I’m going to let you know that when you did this, this is how that landed for me. The good news, if it’s truly somebody who’s not self-aware, my most frequent observation with that is they go home, and they have a second glass of wine, because “I can’t believe that I put-” “That’s not my-” “that’s another-” “That wasn’t my intention,” So then you realize the months and years you’ve suffered with never giving a low self-awareness person feedback was so self defeating for you because they had low self-awareness.

I’m way more worried about the person who’s high emotional intelligence in a negative way. The shrewd person, the person who’s manipulating you intentionally, high self-awareness. But with a low self-awareness person, try a really nice round of feedback, crisp, clean, objective, nothing to disagree with. The person’s nodding, yes, I remember Tuesday’s meeting. And I remember when I put my hands up. You know, it crushed me and I cried for three hours. That’s the part that you own. And they can’t disagree with that.

So try that. Have a really nice deep breath first.

More on this

How to give feedback to someone who doesn’t report to you

Feedforward instead of feedback

Exercise: Giving Feedback Gently