John Bernatovicz

The Positive Way to Provide Negative Feedback

Admit it. Giving negative feedback is no fun. But like it or not – as a manager, owner, recruiter, HR leader, payroll pro, etc., you need to step up and give constructive feedback. And you need to deliver it in a manner that avoids sending an employee into the fetal position under their desk or bringing a tear to a candidate’s eye (not for a good reason).  I find it critical especially during the interview process as candidates and consultants yearn for why they did or more likely did not do well.  Everyone (mostly everyone) wants to improve, get better, and do well!

Empathy
Let’s not forget – Whether you think you are or not… whether you want to be or not, you can be an intimidating force in your subordinates’ lives.  One way to alleviate that is by expressing empathy and a sense that you care about each employee… and you’ve been where they are now. Make it clear that you’re providing this feedback to help – that you care about their success.

Positivity
Provide suggestions for a clear path forward, not criticism of the past.  I’ve had a manager employ and enforce this common principle: no criticism without a suggestion.  Think about that… if we focus on solutions and not problems, we can move forward and put in place more successful work practices.

Specificity
Don’t speak in generalities – have a specific instance or two and remember – don’t just critique as anyone can throw stones. It’s the effective manager that provides solutions to how to react differently in the future.

Timely
Don’t wait for a December review to bring up something that happened in February.  Negative feedback feels a lot like revenge when it is delivered “cold.” And while you’re at it – praise employees in a timely fashion as well.

Appropriately
Pick the right place. And no, in a group meeting or in front of others is not typically the right place. Show your employee the respect of keeping it between the two of you.

And a bonus one for dealing with colleagues.
Before just assuming your colleague wants, needs, or values your opinions – ask him/her if they would like to receive it. “Can I give you my two cents?” or “Would you like to know how I would go about handling…?” soften whatever feedback you’re providing and make sure the recipient has an open mind.

Like it or not, providing feedback is imperative in a healthy workplace… and now you have mine.

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