5 secrets to giving negative feedback positively

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As a manager, you probably enjoy praising employees for good performance but far from relish giving negative feedback.

Yet when it comes to helping a member of staff reach their full potential - as well as seeing your business thrive - both are equally important.

As everyone makes mistakes at one time or another, how can you have tricky conversations without demotivating or demoralising that person?

Here are five things to bear in mind so potentially tricky one-on-ones turn out positively all round…

1: Make feedback (positive and negative) the norm

Being criticised out of the blue can be hard to take. That’s why smart businesses work to establish a culture of feedback, where employees see feedback as a usual part of their working week and expect a mix of encouragement and praise, plus constructive criticism.

Regular one-on-one catch ups for everyone mean that any negative pointers will be far easier to take, plus no one will feel singled out for criticism.

2: Keep it private

It might be quick and easy to pull someone up on a mistake in public - in the office, or a team meeting, say. But as well as embarrassing and undermining the confidence of the person involved, you also risk demoralising and demotivating their colleagues or whole team.

Giving negative feedback in private can help employees save face. This is backed up by 2016 research by leadership training provider Dale Carnegie Training. It quizzed over 3,000 workers in 13 countries to find what makes up the ideal manager.

Some 60% of workers said they preferred leaders who drew someone’s attention to a mistake tactfully, or indirectly, and gave them a chance to fix the error.

3: Don’t be personal

Give someone negative feedback? Yes. Make it a personal attack? No. It’s crucial to know the difference between the two.

Your goal should be to focus on the work or behaviour you’d like your employee to address, rather than make any aspects of their personality or personal traits the story.

Turning feedback personal is unnecessary, and you run the risk of that person becoming defensive, feeling attacked and growing despondent. It also takes the spotlight away from the problem you want them to address, and unless you’re careful will also betray any negative personal feelings you might have towards them.

4: Give specific examples

Before you meet with your employee, decide on some specific examples of how his or her performance needs to be improved.

Vague comments won’t cut the mustard. Stick to clear cut examples to help that person see exactly how and what to improve in the future. After all, at the end of the chat, you’d like your employee to be clear about a concrete area of improvement they need to focus on.

5: Build a long-term rapport

However tactful or careful you think you’ve been when delivering negative feedback, it’s human nature to feel just a little bit hurt when faced with criticism.

But as we know through our work at HRGO helping businesses find their ideal candidates, this is yet another reason why relationships are crucial.

After all, who would you take negative feedback seriously from: a manager you barely interact with beyond the basics, or a manager who’s taken the time to get to know you, and who you trust is genuinely willing to want to help you improve?

Building long-term positive rapports with individual team members always pays dividends, and when it comes to constructive criticism this is doubly so.

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