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8 Ways to Give Negative Feedback to Employees

Sponsored by Workopolis: If done properly, performance reviews can be a fantastic way to boost employee engagement and productivity, both of which go a long way towards addressing retention issues.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. Giving a performance review, especially for an under-performing employee, can be uncomfortable and challenging. It’s often, however, just the thing that’s needed to resolve issues and improve performance.

Here are eight tips to help you give negative feedback.

1. Use self-assessments

A good first step to providing great performance reviews is to ask your employees to complete a self-assessment before you meet with them. This is the easiest way to see how they perceive their own work, and if that perception aligns with your own. Are there any differences? A difference in perception (and performance) might be coming down to expectations.

But also look for the spots where you both overlap. Use these overlaps to start the conversation, and then segue into finding areas of improvement.

2. Be open to change

In talking to your employee might discover a few things: are there challenges to the role that you were unaware of? Are issues with other members of staff hampering performance?

If you find that this is the case, show some humility and adaptability, and amend your review. You should also be ready and willing to suggest potential changes to workflow and internal processes. Remember, the idea is to find solutions.

3. Focus on business

This is the key thing to remember: no matter how uncomfortable or worried you may be about giving a bad review, you have a business (or team) to run. Your main objective is getting the best possible performance out of your employee (and, in turn, helping them get the most out of their career).

If giving a bad review helps, then it’s what you should do. Do what you can to remove personal emotions, and say what needs to be said. That said, be careful about being overly aggressive or offensive. You can be constructive and critical without being mean or hostile.

4. Highlight strengths

You might think that a negative performance review would focus on weaknesses, but it’s actually a good idea to focus on developing strengths.

Coaching an employee to hone in and develop key skills can absolutely help them to perform at a higher level (and give them the confidence to do so).

5. Back up feedback with examples

As we covered in a recent eGuide on performance reviews, data and evidence are crucial to delivering feedback. In fact, every issue you raise should be supported by at least two specific examples.

Don’t dwell on that one time your employee dropped the ball, or a personal issue (e.g. divorce, a death in the family, etc.); it can be unproductive.

If these issues are re-occurring, however, then the performance review is the opportunity to come up with a solution.

6. Use their job description

Before meeting your employee, go back to look at their most recent job description. It can serve as the foundation of your performance review.

Are they keeping up with the tasks and responsibilities? Has the job changed? Discuss this with your employee and figure out a way to move forward with expectations that are aligned.

7. Come up with a plan of attack

So, you just gave your employee a terrible review. What are they supposed to do now?

It’s your responsibility to work with them to come up with the action plan of specific steps to take. Create a list of measurable goals for the short and long term.

8. Continue to provide feedback

When you and your report have developed the plan, be sure to follow up regularly to ensure they stay on track.

Remember, it takes time and the appropriate coaching for an employee to course-correct certain habits and attitudes. Be patient and supportive, and the change will come.

If you were unlucky enough to give your employee a negative review this year, it’s probably a good idea to start taking steps to prevent the same thing from happening next year. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.

For more on performance reviews, check out this episode of Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast:

About the author: Workopolis is Canada’s leading career site for job seekers and a leader in HR technology solutions for employers.

By Guest

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