New Managers—How to Give Negative Feedback

6 fingers are pointing at a person who feels accused by a new manager

Notice to new managers: negative feedback, given appropriately and effectively, should not hurt…either you or the recipient.

We know from thousands of new manager training programs, that too many new managers avoid giving negative feedback. They dread the unknown reaction. Will the receiver be angry, break down in tears or completely discount it? Not one of these reactions fulfills the purpose of having an effective performance conversation.

We believe the purpose of feedback is to help improve performance. The key to delivering negative performance feedback as a new manger is to provide a safe environment and to ensure the recipient understands that you, as their manager, want to help them succeed. It’s not the content so much as the intent. If you project a genuine intent to be helpful and supportive, then your message should be heard, absorbed and carefully considered.

Here are some new manager tips on how to give the kind of feedback that provides insight and actually improves performance:

  1. Start off in the right frame of mind
    Be sure you’re ready to give feedback objectively. Emotion should play no role if you want to create a safe environment. It may be natural to feel angry or resentful when one of your team is not pulling their weight. But clear those feelings before you begin the dialogue.
  2. Ask first
    Give the other person an opportunity to get their emotions in check. Ask permission with a simple question like, “May I give you some feedback on the sales meeting this morning?”
  3. Establish purpose
    Make sure your good intentions are understood. You should feel true and believable concern for the growth and development of your employee. The purpose is not to criticize but to share your observations so that the situation can be handled better next time.

And here are some tips for the receiver:

  1. Prepare yourself
    Understand that there will be some good information in the feedback. Good managers are focused on developing their team members to their full potential. Are you ready to hear the truth? Put the meeting in perspective and ground yourself first. This is not a measure of your self-worth but an opportunity to grow.
  2. Ask questions
    Don’t accept just general comments. Ask for examples so you have a better idea for when and where and how you can do better. Your goal? To learn.

Anyone who has attended new manager training should know that managers are responsible for their team’s performance. It may be easier to give positive than negative feedback. But both are necessary for real and meaningful performance improvement. And as you model an effective feedback process, ask for feedback on your own effectiveness as a new manager.

To learn more about new manager performance, download Do You Have High Performing Managers? The 4 Management Metrics that Matter Most

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