Responding to Feedback at Work When It's From Your Boss's Spouse
March 6, 2013 12:13 AM Subscribe
I think I'm offending my boss's wife when I suggest alternatives to some of her input that she's been giving on a big project I'm in charge of at work. How can I more effectively respond to her feedback so I don't offend her but also stay true to design standards and artistic integrity?
I am responsible for rebranding my company's website. This is a big honor because I haven't been at the company very long, and I am very happy that my bosses like my work enough to entrust me with this task. I was charged with creating a new brand identity that is hip, fresh, and streamlined.
One of the main people giving input on this rebranding process is my boss's wife, who I like very much and who is part of the demographic our brand is trying to reach. She is not a designer, and lately I've been having a really, really hard time with some of her suggestions. Some of her ideas are excellent and I look forward to incorporating them; others revolve around outdated design elements that are now categorically passe, or on things that just don't match the design scheme we've already set into motion.
With my boss and the other people on my team I feel comfortable saying, "I see where you're coming from on this, but I'm worried that incorporating ABC may result in XYZ, which we've thus far been trying to stay away from. Do you think that could be a possible outcome, or would you like me to try it anyway?" With her, I don't feel like I have the same rapport on which to rely when giving that kind of counter feedback, and to make matters worse, this anxiety about not feeling like I can organically participate in a dialogue about this project I'm responsible for is morphing into resentment. I am starting to automatically dismiss her input as not good, and I think she may be feeling like me countering her input with possible outcomes = me dissing her.
I still try very hard to acknowledge her input, validate it for its importance and weight, and then suggest possible negative or less ideal outcomes associated with implementing some of her suggestions and counter it with alternatives I think are more aesthetically pleasing/time efficient/etc. I want her to feel heard, and I also want to produce the best possible product. These two things are not mutually exclusive but I'm making them so.
This is really stressing me out and I no longer look forward to this project anymore as I once did. I don't feel like my own expertise in this area is being respected and I don't feel like I can give my input freely for fear of offending her. Is it naive of me to assume that I should still be able to have an open and honest dialogue with my team if she's in the room? If so, where do I go next? If not, what kind of things can I do or say to make sure she feels acknowledged and appreciated for her input particularly when that input does not feel like a good fit for the project?
I was thinking I might sit down with her and ask her to elaborate on all the things she would really like to see from the brand now that it's being revamped so that I can better understand where she's coming from. Would it be a bad idea to even say, "I want to make sure that I have not been offending you during meetings. Do you feel like your input is being heard, and if not, what can I do as your designer to do better in that area?"