A manager’s guide to giving negative employee feedback

A manager’s guide to giving negative employee feedback

Employee feedback is an important part of personal and professional development, and everyone needs it. But providing feedback for positive results can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are some ways you can turn what is often an uncomfortable process for everyone, into a positive experience.

Do it right away

One of the most important things you need to get right when providing employee feedback is to give it in a timely manner. Research shows that 71% of employees prefer immediate feedback.

Providing real-time feedback will help everyone move on faster and should lessen the stress and frustration that is probably brewing on both sides.

Read the room: private or public?

It’s great to praise employees and share positive feedback in front of their peers. Most people appreciate the recognition and it can be good for both individual and team morale.

Negative employee feedback is more complicated. It’s usually better to provide this type of feedback in private, but sometimes you may have to do the hard thing and share negative feedback in front of others.

Express your (good) intentions

I assume that as a manager, you have your employee’s best interests at heart, and that sharing negative feedback is hard for you to do. You should share this with your employee.

Explain to them that you are just as uncomfortable as they are, but that you wanted to have this tough conversation because you want to give them the opportunity to grow because they are a valued member of the team.

Be specific

Be clear about what the problem is and why. Specificity is important because it helps both you and the recipient address the issues directly, making the feedback process more effective.

Sometimes the best way to do this is to write some notes down before you sit down to discuss the matter.

Don’t get personal

It’s hard to provide (or receive) negative feedback without getting personal – especially if the situation is emotionally charged.

Try to stick to the facts and make sure to address the employee’s behavior rather than their personality or motives.

Give them a chance to talk

There are at least two sides to every story, and it’s entirely possible that you misread the situation, or that there were other factors in play that you missed. Give your employee the chance to explain and make suggestions.

Don’t overcompensate afterwards

You probably feed bad but avoid the temptation to lessen the blow after the meeting by being overly positive or complimentary. This sends mixed signals, undermining your feedback.

Check in from time to time

Once you have provided ‘formal’ feedback, be sure to check in on an informal basis. This could be as simple as a quick visit to their desk to offer help or advice. Regular, honest engagements like this will help your employee feel supported and could also raise any red flags before they require formal feedback sessions.

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