Updated June 8, 2023
Introduction to Negative Feedback At Work
You make your way through the narrow corridors of your office and set up base at a tiny meeting room, and following right behind you is your team member. He looks like a lamb ready for the slaughter, a death row prisoner waiting for the black cloth over his head. You can feel the tension in the room. In your head, you’re trying to accumulate words that will awaken but not pierce him, and your team member is looking for shelter, not knowing what will occur to him. In your mind, all you want to do is compliment the team member for his contribution up until now to the organization, put across the feedback on the table, and sugarcoat it by allowing him to bask in the glory of his strengths.
Would that be the best way to tell your employee that there’s something quite wrong with how he conducts his work for the organization? Is he looking at this feedback as a chance to improve a certain aspect of his work or just another pep talk from the boss? Would he buy the intensity of the situation you’re trying to sell to him?
You would’ve wanted your feedback session to be just another run-of-the-mill session to show that you care about your team members. But, with such a light treatment for such an important factor in a manager’s job profile, you need to do more justice. In this article, we will look at negative feedback at work and how you must find poise in the meeting room and emerge victorious when presenting it to your team member.
Why Is There a Need for Negative Feedback At Work?
People make mistakes, but correcting such errors is what can turn the tables towards you and throw the ball in your court. We always want to watch learning and growth within our teams. It defines the job role of a people manager and makes them an interesting and dedicated resource in the business world.
If it weren’t for negative feedback at work, we wouldn’t be able to experience growth in its element. We would have different individuals conducting and leading the business and the work culture in how it fancies them. As a manager, it’s up to you to ensure that the feedback given is of optimum quality and that how it is presented to the employee is encouraging and not extremely subduing.
A business team needs to be at their best and to be at their best; don’t encourage them to have an overly positive outlook. Or downright pessimistic. The balance must be perfect and quintessentially realistic, belonging to the real world.
Knowing When, How, Who, and Where to Approach
Positive feedback has many portals we can present to our team members. They include program recognition, rewards, prizes, promotions, accolades, and many other platforms. But, presenting negative feedback at work must be carefully carried out as there’s a good chance of the feedback backfiring. After all, we are all human beings and have a certain percentage of our emotions attached to our work and workplace. This emotional factor poses a great hurdle in front of the manager giving feedback, and sometimes it can go kaput. For those instances to never pass you by, you must remember the when, the how, the who, and the where.
When – On Time
Because of the nature of negative feedback at work, many managers stall it for a later time, preferably to be presented to the team member during a quarterly review of performance. But, this delay can adversely affect the performance of the individual, which will, in turn, affect the manager’s performance. Having the feedback presented to the team member as soon as possible is always ideal. And, with “as soon as possible”, It is advantageous for the company to arrive quickly to the incident rather than wait for months for the next formal review meeting.
Immediate negative feedback at work is more effective than prolonged and delayed feedback to your team member. It provides the following benefits:
- Your team member can act on it immediately.
- Since the incident or performance gap has just passed, they will relate to it quicker than anticipated.
- The feedback can be effective in light of recent events.
- It remains relevant
- Team member realizes that you are interested in their development on a real-time basis.
- Team member acknowledges the company values and goals at the right time.
- No delayed results to the business
How – Taking the Negative Aspect out of Negative Feedback At Work
Employees dread the time you’re escorting them into a meeting room to provide negative feedback at work, not only because they don’t want to hear anything with a negative connotation but because it opens up a hurting wound. At such times, having some humor or light talk elements is a boost to intervene in the conversation. As the title mentions, taking the negative aspect out of negative feedback at work can be your crowning glory.
It’s unnecessary that all the negative feedback processes or constructive criticisms you give to your team members or, for that matter, your peers or manager have to be doomed from the very start. Your idea of presenting criticism should be on the optimistic side. It should be in the frame of mind that promotes the progress of the organization and the growth and development of the individual you’re dealing with.
These instances are opportunities to coach your team members and bond with your peers. A negative feedback process should always be presented to encourage the blossoming of an individual into a better worker. Be a mentor to your team members and ensure that they take this feedback as they should.
Who – Make it About the What
You might have a better team reporting to you or the perfect boss you say to at a workplace. There’s always a person on your team you dislike or can’t seem to bear with.
To make a negative feedback process effective, you must change your mindset about that person. Don’t look at the person’s individuality but concentrate on the work that went wrong. Never bring out personal frustrations or dislikes into your workspace and present them as a negative feedback process. It will be completely counter-productive that you’re in an offensive position while presenting your criticism or feedback, and your team member is defending their own in front of you. It will crash the entire purpose of the feedback process.
When you put aside personal prejudices, you can stand more confidently in front of that individual without losing your cool or erupting into explosive and de-motivating feedback.
Where – Choosing the Location
Choosing a personal space can be the best location to get the ball rolling. You must remember not to speak of a negative feedback process in a group setting, such as a team meeting or a crowd gathering, which will affect how your team members feel about the job they have been doing and how they perceive you as a manager and team leader.
You can either meet the concerned member over lunch or coffee in a casual environment or a one-on-one conference in a meeting room, a more formal setup. It would depend on your comfort level and also that of the employee.
Always ask for a meeting. Always ensure that you ask your employer for a free time slot before asking them to join you for the meeting. The timeslots that you’re free would mean something other than they are also free.
Feedback for the Manager
It can be quite a task for you to provide negative feedback to your immediate reporting manager, but when it does come to a situation where you need to speak up and let them know what you feel while you work for them, there’s no two-way about it. It’s always a cautious situation that you need to be in when you’re ready to go for it.
Start by asking your manager if they believe in transparency and openness. Make them understand how their actions can help you perform better and how you need to be their support when they are yours. This way, you can gain their trust to help them understand the negative feedback process and how it’s affecting the team and you. Ask them to organize weekly meetings with you, discuss your performance with them, and provide them with feedback if something could go better with you.
You cannot be the person on the team telling the manager how they must do their job; that’s not much feedback but commanding. This will surely disintegrate the team and won’t go too well with the manager; instead, you must clarify to your manager that it’s your perspective and that it’s for the team and your performance rather than theirs.
On the other hand, ensure that as a manager, you ask your team member for feedback if they have any and take those seriously to improve yourself.
What to Say to an Employee?
Below are a few pointers to remember when you speak to an employee. You must pay attention to these pointers and follow them when needed.
- Direct and Specific Talk – Nobody would want their manager to beat around the bush and, after a long talk, reach the point. It’s just a waste of time and energy and can be unpleasant for the team member receiving negative feedback. Instead, state the feedback directly and with the highest specificity. Let them know of the consequences of repetition in the same action and make sure that the suggestions for improvement come from them.
- Offer Top-notch Solutions – Each feedback session should have a lesson learned, a takeaway from the meeting. Be the one to take in suggestions from the team member while providing solutions to help the individual cope with the current situation. Keep the momentum by continually gaining and offering solutions.
- Remove Negativity – Avoid using words that bring out a negative connotation. Ensure that your sentences miss out on “don’t”, “shouldn’t”, “mustn’t”, “can’t”, and other such “not” or “never” sentences. This will bring about a sense of positivity and encourage your team member to work above and beyond the negativity of the feedback.
- Empathize – Put yourself into the shoes of your team member. Try and understand where they come from and what their negative feedback was all about. Try connecting the dots and offering them feedback like how you would receive negative comments about yourself.
- Lend a Listening Ear – To be empathetic, and you will need to first listen to what your team member has to say regarding the feedback and give them a time window to replay their side of the story to you. You’ll see areas where instruction could be helpful and support your team member. The negative feedback process is always to stand constructive, and knowing both sides of the story can empower the team, the manager, and the team member. All you need to do is listen.
- Mind Your Body Language – When giving negative feedback or even conducting a one-on-one meeting, it’s recommended by management experts that you sit adjacent to your team member, as this action has proven to keep the team member at ease and open to a healthy conversation. It’s not only the positioning that matters, but your tone, mannerisms, and hand gestures convey your mind to your team member awaiting their negative feedback process. Maintain steady and concerned eye contact with your team members and ensure they understand what you are trying to bring about with this negative feedback.
Make Feedback a 360 Degree Process
We all make mistakes, but we are a generation ready to be dedicated to our work and rise to the occasion. Ensure that feedback, negative or positive is constantly part of your team improvement plans and method. Through these feedback mechanisms and processes, Businesses are seeing an improvement in the caliber of their work and corporate life. Set up 360-degree feedback mechanisms to receive feedback from managers, peers, and subordinates. Inducing quality in this way will ensure it from all angles.
This has been a guide to Negative Feedback At Work. Here we have discussed the basic concept, Why is there a need for Negative Feedback At Work? Making feedback a 360-degree process, respectively. You may look at the following articles to learn more: