How to Give Negative Feedback Like a Pro - 133T
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How to Give Negative Feedback Like a Pro

October 13, 2017

As adults, we are all accustomed to receiving feedback in one way or another. It’s a part of everyday life.

If you go to college, you get feedback on your reports, for instance. And, as a child, your parents would give you feedback on what was right and wrong (“don’t touch the stove!!”).

The purpose of feedback from a manager’s perspective is to let an employee know how they are doing, and where they can improve. The ability to properly give this feedback is one of the most valuable tools in an excellent manager’s toolbelt.

The Importance of “Negative” feedback

It is easy to tell someone that they are doing an excellent job. If all you have to do is tell someone “Great job!” and go about your day, then what’s the point?  Make no mistake, telling someone what they are doing right can be a constructive tool, but nothing is quite as valuable as giving “negative” feedback.

When you tell someone where they can improve you’re doing not just a service to your business, but a service to them as well.

This system of improvement is twofold: If they can use your feedback to improve upon themselves, it will result in boosted confidence, better mood, and overall more productivity.  As you can imagine, all of those things will make them better workers and improve your business in terms of environment and production.

The Delivery Process

As a manager, you need to learn the process of delivering “negative” feedback to your employees. Like all things, as you practice relaying this information, you will become more fluent and confident in your actions.

You will first need to ask your employee to meet with you for a couple of minutes. You do not have to bring them to a secluded office or anything along those lines, but make sure that the conversation is heard just between the two of you, and an additional manager (if necessary) for documentation purposes.

Once you are sure that it is just the two of you, open the conversation by telling them something that they are doing right. An example would be: “Hey, Jeff! I just wanted to thank you for getting all that paperwork filed quickly. We appreciate you working so hard to make sure we meet our deadlines. Great job!” You always need to start off on a positive note and let them know what they are doing right.

The next step is to forget the phrase “negative feedback.” The connotation can bring negative feelings and can close the door of communication with your employees before the conversation ever really begins. Instead, use the phrase “area of opportunity.” When you word it in such a way, it lets them know that they are doing things right, but there is always room for improvement.

The amazing thing about improvement is that we are ALL constantly improving — yes, even managers! So let the employee know that you noticed an “area of opportunity.”

After you explain what they are doing right, you can continue by saying: “Also, Jeff: we noticed that you might have accidentally missed a file or two when you submitted that last batch over to us. I think a great area of opportunity for you would be to double-check your attachments next time so that you are sure that everything is there and good to go.”

Next, you need to follow up with them to make sure they understand. You can do this quickly by simply asking if they have any questions for you. If they look like they are unsure, you can gently probe them and ensure that they completely understand what you expect of them. You can even use this opportunity to uptrain them yourself so that if they have any questions they can ask you on the spot.

Finally, thank them for their time and let them know that you value them as a person, and as an employee. If you are willing to make it personal and let them know that you care it is going to encourage them to want to do better.

By the time your meeting is finished, they shouldn’t feel horrible and like they did something wrong. They should feel like they know what you expect, how they can improve as an employee, and like they have the tools they need to get the job done the way that you expect.

Important Tricks, Tips, and Notes

  • Mind your body language before, during, and after the encounter with the employee. Make sure you are postured, smiling, and making eye contact. If you are comfortable with them, they are more likely to be comfortable with you. This will free up the conversation path and allow for easier communication and a greater chance for success.
  • Document your encounter, if necessary. Some employers like to document these meetings so that there is a paper trail showing that the conversation occurred. This can be easily done by writing up a word document with the employee’s name, ID number, date of occurrence, positive feedback, and area of opportunity. Always make sure you sign and date the bottom and have your employee do the same.
  • Make your employee comfortable! One of the best ways to do this is by explaining that we are all constantly on a path of improvement. Let them know that improvement is paramount to success. If they know that you are doing this because you want to see them succeed, they are more likely to comply instead of feeling like they are being “punished.”
  • Follow up! This is one of the most important tips of all. After you provide your employee with their area of opportunity, pay attention to see if they are following through! If you notice that they are doing a great job and doing exactly what you suggested, let them know. Make a simple statement like: “I see you have improved since our last conversation. Great job! I appreciate you and everything that you do.” A couple of words of encouragement and kindness go a long way towards building happy, productive employees.

As you can see, it does not have to be complicated or intimidating to give your employees “negative” feedback! In fact, if you follow this method, your employees will likely gradually improve AND feel good about the fact that they are contributing to the company in a big way.

If YOU have any tips or tricks for giving your employees negative feedback please feel free to share the article on Facebook and let us know — we’d love to hear from you!

Frank Spear is a freelance writer who has been making his mark on the internet for six years. He has seven years of management experience spanning across restaurants, telemarketing companies, and even a company that refurbished aircraft. When he isn’t writing you can find Frank reading or checking out the latest video games.