How to Present Negative Feedback At Work to Your Team Member?

negative feedback at work

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 befall him. In your mind, all you want to do is compliment the team member for his contribution up until now towards the organization, put across the feedback on the table, and sugar coat 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 not right with the way he is conducting his work for the organization? Would he buy the intensity of the situation you’re trying to sell to him? Is he looking at this feedback as a chance to improve upon a certain aspect of his work or just another pep talk from the boss?

You would’ve wanted your feedback session to be just another run-of-the-mill session to show off that you care about your team members. But, in fact, with such a light treatment for such an important factor in a manager’s job profile, you’re not doing enough justice. In this article, we will look at negative feedback at work and how you must find your way with poise into the meeting room and emerge victorious when it comes to presenting it to your team member.

Why Is There a Need for Negative Feedback At Work?

We always want to watch learning and growth within our teams. This is what defines the job role of a people manager and makes them an interesting and dedicated resource in the world of business. People make mistakes, but correcting such mistakes is what can turn the tables towards you and throw the ball in your court.

Negative Feedback

If it weren’t for negative feedback at work, we wouldn’t be able to experience growth in its element and we would have different individuals conducting and leading the business and the work culture in the way it fancies them. As a manager, it’s up to you to ensure that the feedback given is of optimum quality and the manner in which the feedback 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, it’s important that they aren’t led to being overly optimistic or downright pessimistic. The balance has to be just perfect and quintessentially realistic, belonging to the real world.

Knowing When, How, Who, and Where to Approach

A positive feedback has many portals using which we can present them to our team members. They include program recognition, rewards, prizes, promotions, accolades, and many more such platforms. But, presenting negative feedback at work needs to be carefully carried out as there’s a good chance of the feedback backfiring. After all, we are all human beings and we have a certain percentage of our emotions attached to our work and our workplace. This emotional factor poses a great hurdle in front of the manager giving out the feedback and there are times it can go kaput. In order for those instances to never pass you by, it’s important that you keep in mind the when, the how, the who, and the where.

When – On Time

Because of the nature of a 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 performance of the manager. It’s always ideal to have the feedback presented to the team member as soon as possible. And, with “as soon as possible”, it’s helpful for the business that it is belted out within days of the incident rather than having to wait it out for months for the next formal review meeting.

Immediate negative feedback at work is more effective than a 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 them by, 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 when 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 it opens up a hurting wound. At such times, it is a boost to have some elements of humor or light talk to intervene in the conversation. As the title mentions, taking the negative aspect out of a negative feedback at work can prove to be your crowning glory.

It’s not at all necessary that all the negative feedback process or constructive criticisms you give to your team members or, for that matter, your peers or manager has to be doomed from the very start. Your idea of presenting criticism should be on the optimistic side and should be in the frame of mind that promotes the progress of the organization and growth and development for the individual you’re dealing with.


Look at these instances as the opportunity to render coaching to your team members and bonding with your peers. Negative feedback process always should be presented in a way 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 in the way they are supposed to.

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Who – Make it About the What

At a workplace, you might not have the perfect team reporting to you or the perfect boss that you are reporting to. There’s always a person on your team that you personally dislike or can’t seem to bear with.

To make a negative feedback process effective it’s important for you to change your mindset about that person. Don’t look at the individuality of the person but concentrate on the work that went wrong. Never bring out personal frustrations or dislikes into your workspace and present them in the form of the 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. This will crash the entire purpose of the feedback process.

When you do put aside personal prejudices, you will be able to stand more confidently in front of that individual without losing your cool or erupting into an explosive and de-motivating feedback.

Where – Choosing the Location

Choosing a personal space can be the best location you can find to get the ball rolling. It’s important that you keep in mind not to speak of a negative feedback process in a group setting such as a team meeting or a crowd gathering. This will affect the way your team members feel about the job they have been doing and also the way they perceive you as a manager and team leader.


You can either choose to meet the concerned member over lunch or coffee in a very casual environment or in a one-on-one conference in a meeting room, which is a more formal setup. This would depend on your comfort level and also that of the employee.

Always ensure that you ask your employer for a free slot of time before asking them to join you for the meet. In the timeslots that you’re free wouldn’t mean they are free as well. Always ask for a meeting.

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 that 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 in order to help them understand the negative feedback process and how it’s affecting the team and you. Ask them to organize for weekly meetings with you, where you discuss with them your performance as well as provide them with feedback if something doesn’t go all that well with you.


You cannot be the person on the team telling the manager how they must do their job; that’s not much of feedback but commanding. This will surely disintegrate the team and won’t go too well with the manager, instead, it’s important that you make it clear to your manager that it’s your perspective and that it’s for the team and your own 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, with a view to improving yourself.

What to Say to an Employee?

Listed below are a few pointers to keep in mind when you speak to an employee. It’s important that you 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, long talk come to the point. It’s just a waste of time and energy and can be quite unpleasant for the team member receiving the negative feedback. Instead, state the feedback directly and with utmost specificity. Let them know of the consequences of a 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 you provide the solutions that can help the individual in coping up 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 will 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 all about was. Try connecting the dots and offer them feedback in a manner similar to how you would expect your negative feedback to be given to you.
  • Lend a Listening Ear – In order to be empathetic, 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. In that, you will notice gaps that can be filled with your guidance and support towards your team member. The negative feedback process is always meant to be 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 a 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 matter though, it’s even your tone, your mannerisms, and hand gestures that convey your mind out to your team member awaiting for their negative feedback process. Maintain a steady and concerned eye contact with your team member and make sure 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 the work we do and rise up to the occasion. Make sure that feedback—negative feedback or positive feedback—is constantly part of your team improvement plans and method. It’s through these feedback mechanisms and processes that improvement in the quality of work is witnessed in businesses and corporate life on the whole. Set up 360-degree feedback mechanisms to receive feedback not only from managers but also from peers and subordinates. This will ensure that quality is induced from all directions.

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