How to Give Negative Feedback More Effectively

How to Give Negative Feedback More Effectively
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Managers — How to Give Negative Feedback More Effectively
Notice to new managers: it is possible to give negative feedback more effectively.  Negative feedback, given appropriately and effectively, should not hurt or disengage you or the recipient.

Too Many Managers Do Not Like to Give Negative feedback
We know from over 500,000 annual employee engagement survey responses and from new manager training program feedback, that too many new managers do not give negative feedback even when they know they should. They dread the unknown reaction and are worried that the receiver will:

  • Be angry
  • Be shocked
  • Become hostile
  • Become disengaged
  • Shirk responsibility
  • Break down in tears
  • Get defensive
  • Discount the feedback
  • Lose confidence
  • Become risk averse

Not one of these reactions fulfills the purpose of having an effective performance conversation based upon constructive and warranted feedback.

The Purpose of Feedback at Work
We believe the purpose of feedback at work is to help improve levels of employee engagement and 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.

Three Tips to Give Negative Feedback More Effectively
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 difficult conversation 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
    This tip is often underestimated and underused.  Be sure you’re ready to give both negative feedback and positive feedback objectively. Emotion should play no role if you want to create a psychologically safe environment.

    It may be natural to feel angry or resentful when one of your team members is not pulling their weight. But clear those feelings before you begin the dialogue.  Remember, it is not about you; it is about your direct report.

  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 business review meeting this morning?”
  3. Establish Purpose
    Make sure your good intentions are understood. You should feel authentic 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.

Two Tips to Receive Negative Feedback More Effectively
While much is written and taught about how to give negative feedback effectively, little is written about how to receive negative feedback.  Here are two tips for the receiver from people manager assessment center data:

  1. Prepare Yourself
    Understand that there will most likely be some relevant and useful information in the feedback regardless of how difficult it is to hear. Be ready to objectively look for the truth and areas for improvement.   Do not take things personally.

    Put the meeting in perspective and ground yourself first. This is not a measure of your self-worth but an opportunity to learn, connect and grow.  Take advantage of the gift of feedback.

  2. Ask Questions
    Don’t accept just general comments. Without interrogating or getting defensive, ask for examples so you have a better idea about how you are perceived and how you can do better. Remember your goal is to learn, connect, and grow to become the best you can be.

The Bottom Line
Managers are responsible for their team’s performance. It may be easier to give positive feedback than to give negative feedback, but both are necessary for real and meaningful performance improvement and accountability. And remember, as you model an effective feedback process, ask for feedback on your own effectiveness as a manager.

To learn more about improving manager performance, download The 4 Management Metrics that Matter Most

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