12 Rules to Giving Negative Feedback

Sadly, looking after your team of employees does not just mean offering encouragement and turning out a regular paycheck. It also means you need to give some negative feedback from time to time if you want to keep them on track and help them reach their full potential.

It’s never easy to negatively criticize another human being, but with tact and good intentions it can turn out positively for them, for you, and for your business. Let’s have a look at some of the techniques you can use to turn that bad performance around.

Create a culture of feedback

Criticism from out of the blue can catch people off-guard. If you offer negative feedback only when things are going disastrously, your team is going to associate the feedback with disaster.

Instead, try establishing a culture of feedback upfront. Create regular feedback sessions, and be clear with your staff from day one that both positive and negative criticism will play a part in the process. That way, nobody feels like they’re being singled out.

But be patient. Feedback is a skill like any other – whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. It may take a few weeks before your new system runs smoothly.

Allow for two-way traffic

If you’re the boss, you probably know best whether your employees are working as efficiently and productively as they should.

However, if there is a problem with the way they are working, they may already be aware of it – or even know of some underlying reason that you haven’t noticed.

Begin each feedback session by giving your crew a chance to self-criticize. Get their side of the story first, and remain open to changing your mind before you launch into your own feedback. This way, everyone gets a voice and you ensure that they are changing from within, and not just as a cosmetic fix to impress you.

And finish each session by asking for feedback on your feedback. That way, you know if you’re being helpful or hurtful – and how to improve next time around.

Structure your feedback

We’ve all heard the idea that negative feedback should be alternated with positive feedback to prevent morale from sinking. But unfortunately, this approach is so well known that today’s workforce sees right through it.

If you give positive feedback for the sake of it, your employees will soon come to distrust all of your feedback. But if you know what you want to say before you enter the room, and you take the time to arrange it into an order that encourages growth and positivity, it doesn’t matter if most of what you say is negative.

The important thing is not to be positive, but to be specific. Explain the tangible effects of poor performance and direct actions that can be taken to improve.

Set goals and targets

It is not unusual for people to feel hurt when they are negatively criticized, even if the criticism is justified and tactful. Of course, you should be careful to keep the feedback professional and not to dwell on the characteristics of an individual that may be impairing their performance – but all the same, you can’t always help it if someone takes things personally.

What you can do, however, is to set specific targets for improvement. You are less likely to hurt anyone’s feelings if your qualitative criticism is balanced with quantitative evidence.

Facilitate self-help

It’s easy to slip into parent-child roles if you use feedback as a means to pull rank or assert your authority. A colleague who improves only to avoid getting in further trouble is not going to be an asset to your team.

Instead of making demands, lead by example – and instead of giving instructions, share techniques. If you identify a problem between two or more members of staff, don’t intervene by solving the problem yourself, but rather try to arbitrate and help them to solve the issue together.

You can also help prevent problems arising by encouraging your staff to give each other feedback when appropriate.

This new guide to giving negative feedback by breaks the process into 12 easy to follow steps. Integrate it into your office workflow, and you will soon sense your entire team flourishing together.

About the author: John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK, and the Balkans.

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