The Art of Giving Negative Feedback: A 7-Step Approach

Editor’s note: This article is published with permission of Business Management Daily.com. View the original article.

Giving feedback is an important management task but certainly not an easy one—especially when the feedback isn’t all sunshine.

Negative feedback requires a manager to motivate, counsel and criticize in a way that alerts employees to where the problems lie and what must be done to solve them. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned.

Follow this seven-step method whenever giving negative feedback: 

  1. Tell it like it is. Don’t sidestep the issue; be straightforward and tell the employee exactly what your concerns are.
    Example: “I’m troubled by the way you deal with customer complaints.”
  2. Give feedback immediately. Feedback is most useful when given at the earliest opportunity after a particular incident. Effective feedback allows the recipient an opportunity to correct behavior right away.
  3. Paint a specific picture of how you view the situation. Describe what you see happening by using objective details, not subjective opinions.
    Example: “When you get calls from irate customers, you become short with them and you don’t try to hide your own irritation.”
  4. Give the lowdown of the outcome. Make sure employees understand the connection between their behavior and the negative results. This lets employees know that they can control the consequences.
    Example: “I’ve received letters from customers threatening to stop using our company if they continue to receive such poor treatment.”
  5. Give credit where credit is due. That way, employees will know what actions to repeat in the future. Plus, they’ll know that you appreciate the effort to do it right.
    Example: “I know it can be frustrating, but I’m pleased to see that after you quickly pinpoint the problem, you immediately make a return call.”
  6. Reiterate performance expectations. As a manager, it is important that you try to make employees understand what it takes for job success.
    Example: “Understand that good customer service begins with fielding the complaint; it isn’t just the end result of solving the problem. Frustration-management skills are important in this department.”
  7. Use feedback as a means of change, not punishment. A positive reaction is a more likely result when you correct negative behavior rather than punish the offender.

Constructive criticism: 4 helpful hints

  1. Beware of communicating your frustration and anger. Otherwise, the recipient will likely feel frustrated and angry, too, and therefore, less receptive to your message.
  2. Be flexible. Most situations don’t require you to dictate exactly what needs to be done or how. Giving employees room to maneuver and allowing them to make changes on their own reduces resistance to following your feedback.
  3. Make your point right away. Otherwise, you risk losing focus on the feedback with too much small talk or overwhelming the employee with too many details.
  4. Put the feedback in writing. It helps reduce misunderstandings, allows you to perfect your message before sending it and is a smart legal move in case of a lawsuit.