How to Deal with Negative Employee Engagement Feedback

How to Deal with Negative Employee Engagement Feedback
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Deal with Negative Employee Engagement Feedback

Know that if you ask for honest feedback through a proven employee engagement survey it won’t all be positive — especially if you ask during times of change or uncertainty.  If you have created an environment of trust and continuous improvement, some of what you hear will be negative.  The question is whether or not you are in the right frame of mind to deal with the negative feedback employee engagement feedback effectively.

While the prevailing sentiment of many leaders is to wait until things are more stable to ask for feedback so that they do not come off as tone-deaf, our organizational culture assessment data found that employees want to be heard during times of volatility.

If you only ask for feedback while things are running smoothly, you send a clear message to employees that their opinions at work are only welcome during good times.  Employees tell us that makes them feel like their perspectives are unimportant and is just another example of leaders delaying meaningful employee engagement actions.

Will you delay it?  Discount it?  Sulk?  Feel attacked?  Get angry?

Or can you rise above those feelings and use employee feedback to your advantage?  Employee feedback is a gift.  It provides a clear window into exactly what you need to do in order to improve levels of engagement and retention for your top talent.

Employee Engagement Surveys
Savvy companies recognize how critical employee engagement is to business success, and they regularly survey their workforce to measure how engaged their workers really are.  Even when the overall report is good, there are bound to be some negative comments.  How can you receive them and use those comments effectively when you follow through with employee engagement actions?

Who Is More Likely to Be Critical?
First, we know from our organizational culture assessment that, on average, more comments are provided by disengaged employees than by highly engaged employees.  Perhaps this is to be expected.  Disgruntled workers are apt to vent when given the chance on a confidential questionnaire.

Happier employees who don’t have an ax to grind are less likely to fill in the comments section.  So right off the bat, you need to take the negative comments in context.

The Mature Response
Next you need to deal with negative employee engagement feedback in a constructive way:

  1. Don’t Get Emotional
    Even if you suspect the feedback is directed at you or your team, you can’t afford to take it personally. Be a grown up and remember that the purpose of the survey is to get better at what you do, how the team operates, and where the company needs to improve.  Surveys can provide wonderful opportunities to grow.
  2. Don’t Over-Accentuate the Negative
    It’s easy to spend more time thinking about the negative comments than the positive. Try to keep a balance that represents the true and helpful feedback, not your overly sensitive reaction to the bad.
  3. Be Objective
    Think about the comments from the survey participant’s perspective. Is there truth in the criticism?  Are there other comments in the same vein?  Try to understand what people are trying to say and then clearly understand the implications to you and your team.
  4. Meet to Discuss the Feedback
    This is your chance to show that you’ve carefully considered the survey responses — both the positive feedback and the negative feedback that highlights problems or misunderstandings.  Use employee engagement focus groups to talk with your team about what you all can work on together to make things better.

The Bottom Line
Surveys are your opportunity to listen to what your employees really think about their leaders and their workplace.  Show that you value their input by being open to celebrate what’s working well and to fully address any issues or problems that they highlight.  The good news is that employees who see action after an engagement survey are twelve times more likely to be engaged the following year compared to those who do not see follow-up.

To learn more about how to deal with negative employee engagement feedback, download 7 Tips on How Managers Can Increase Engagement through Communication

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