Providing negative feedback is not something that comes naturally to a lot of leaders. If giving feedback to people is part of your job, it’s important to remember that when you do give someone feedback, your are not deliberately pointing out their faults, you are doing so with the intention of helping them grow and become better at what they do.
As Brene Brown says “Sometimes speaking the truth feels as if we are being unkind, especially when sharing difficult information or feedback. But in reality, dancing around the truth is unkind. When we avoid stating the truth—when we are vague or ambiguous under the guise of being kind—it is often because we are trying to lessen the discomfort for ourselves, not for the other person”.
If you are an empathetic person, then naturally you are going to feel uncomfortable giving constructive feedback, so it’s helpful to shift your mindset and know that feedback, even negative feedback can have vast positive effects on the person receiving it.
It’s all in the delivery.
People actually want to improve if they know you care. Studies prove that people who receive negative feedback, in a kind and caring manner, are more engaged. Yes, people do actually want to know how they can improve and do better at their jobs. Don’t avoid giving negative feedback, instead always do it with the intention of helping the recipient grow and improve.
Here are three ways to deliver negative or constructive feedback the right way;
- Meet face to face
Written feedback can feel hostile and lacks the human touch. When giving negative feedback, it is always better to deliver it face to face. The venue you pick is also crucially important. Think of a time in the past where you were called into the office of your superior, sat across the desk from him or her while constructive feedback was thrown your way. The power differential couldn’t be greater as you sit in their office, in the lesser position of across from their desk. Before you even receive the feedback you feel on a back foot.
Ideally, pick a neutral spot, such as in a cafe or find a quiet, neutral spot in the office that isn’t your desk, somewhere where you are on a level playing field. Having a relaxed frame of mind and being fully present will also help in the delivery of your feedback. Remain open and listen to their interpretations and try to use the time to actually build stronger trust and rapport.
If you have the time, you could also ask open questions of your employee, making sure they feel valued and heard. This is also useful as it can help reveal further insights into issues that you hadn’t thought of or didn’t previously know about so you can both grow and move forward in a positive way.
- Compare behaviour to a standard, not to other people
Don’t compare one colleague to another, no one wants to feel like they are being compared to others and that they don’t quite measure up. It will only cause friction within the team not to mention making the lesser person feel inferior and insecure.
Likewise, you don’t want to focus on the person or personal character traits of the person you are giving feedback to, but rather their behavior. You need the individual to improve by changing their actions not themselves, so keep the language neutral and about the behaviour. Avoid “you did this” and “you did that” and instead talk about issues as separate from the individual.
Shaming and blaming should also be avoided at all costs as it’s dehumanising and works against the principles of building trust and engagement. It will make the individual feel defensive, belittled, unmotivated and disengaged. Again, good leaders have the right balance between being understanding, but also challenging. By showing you care about your employee’s personal growth and wanting them to achieve their best, you are fulfilling the true intent and purpose of accountability and constructive feedback.
- Suggest practical ways to change
By being specific in your feedback and expectations, you are leaving your employee with practical, even measurable ways to improve. Let them know specifically how they can do things better, making relevant suggestions. Let them know what you feel success would look like for them, what your vision for them is, how you see them being the best version of themselves. Be sure the feedback and suggestions for improvement you are giving are constructive in the sense that they offer practical ways to achieve this growth.
Studies prove that people DO want feedback. It makes no sense to shy away from criticism and negative feedback in the fear you may hurt, demotivate or lose an employee. Delivered in the right way, both the recipient, their manager and the business will improve and grow. If your leadership team could do with my help, please get in touch today, I’d love to hear from you