Avoid saying anything that might reveal your identity

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Q: I was recently asked to evaluate my boss’s job performance. I report to the president of a nonprofit organization, and each person on the management team has been asked to prepare a summary of her strengths and weaknesses. This request came from our board of directors. Since we have been given no additional information about the process, I’m nervous about participating. How should I proceed?

A: The short answer to your question is “carefully.” This unexpected development could reflect a power struggle between your boss and the board, an event which is all too common in the nonprofit world. On the other hand, they might simply wish to provide her with some useful feedback.

Regardless of their motives, your first priority should be self-preservation. Since you have no idea how these comments will be used, avoid saying anything that might reveal your identity. And do not presume confidentiality, even if that was promised, because people are often much too careless with sensitive information.

When describing strengths and weaknesses, assume that your boss will be given these comments verbatim, attempt to guess who said what, and react badly to pointed criticism. So you should not write anything that you wouldn’t say to her face.