13 ways to give negative feedback effectively

Last updated:
July 29, 2021
November 24, 2021
min read
Frank Hamilton
Table of contents

Giving feedback is often regarded as a stressful task, especially if you need to give negative feedback. The situation becomes even worse when you know the employee has caused problems in the past.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to make giving feedback easier. Here are ten ways to give negative feedback effectively.

#1 Understand that employees want feedback

First and foremost, you need to get rid of the misconception that employees don't want to hear feedback, especially bad foeedback.

In reality, most people want to hear feedback because it helps them improve by correcting their past behavior. After all, that's the whole point of feedback – to help employees find a way to become better at their jobs.

If you still don't believe this, there are some statistics to prove it:

  • According to Globoforce, 65% of employees want more feedback.
  • And according to Officevibe, 96% of employees say receiving feedback regularly is a good thing while 83% of employees appreciate receiving feedback regardless if it is positive or negative.
  • In addition to that, Gallup found that employees who received negative feedback were over 20 times more likely to be engaged than those who didn't receive any feedback at all.

#2 Avoid using the feedback sandwich

The next thing you should remember is to avoid using the feedback sandwich. This is a popular method of giving feedback that sandwiches negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback.

The problem is that this method of giving feedback is not effective and can even be counter-productive and harmful. By putting negative feedback in-between positive feedback, you aren't doing your employees any favors.

When you use the feedback sandwich, you create an illusion that the person is doing alright, so they don't actually think they are making any mistakes.

Moreover, most people tend to focus on the last thing they hear, which is why ending the feedback with something good might erase the negative points you made from your employees' minds.

In other words, the feedback sandwich should be avoided at all costs.

#3 Provide constructive criticism instead of critical

Though many HR managers know the difference between constructive and critical feedback, they still tend to focus on providing criticism when giving feedback.

Or, on the contrary, they sugarcoat too much and end up making things even worse. You shouldn't make your employees feel miserable, but you also shouldn't make them too confident if they are clearly making mistakes all the time.

As Alice Sullivan from the writing service reviews site Online Writers Rating says, "The point of giving constructive criticism is to shape the further actions of your team members. If you objectively explain everything, you will be able to communicate your concerns without sounding overbearing or judgmental."

#4 Be specific, honest, and direct – not ruthless

Being specific, honest, and direct are the three main characteristics your feedback should have. As opposed to vagueness, specificity helps you focus on the details that you are most concerned about.

Honesty shows employees that you are open and will help you develop a stronger connection with your team. Directness should be used sparingly as it can come off as meanness or rudeness, but it is still necessary to avoid misunderstandings.

At the same time, you shouldn't be ruthless when providing feedback. Remember that your employees aren't supposed to be scared of your feedback (or of you). You are helping them improve and grow – not become so terrified of making a mistake that they stop attempting to try new things whatsoever.

#5 Get your emotions under control

One big mistake many HR managers make when providing feedback is relying on emotions instead of facts. When feelings govern you, you can't be logical and objective, which will prevent you from making your feedback constructive rather than too critical or too sugarcoated.

Getting your emotions under control will prevent you from lashing out at your employees.

After all, you don't want to be unprofessional while giving feedback. In addition to that, by getting your emotions under control, you will be able to evaluate the situation properly and give the best feedback you can.

#6 Reinforce employee's positive behavior

Though addressing negative behavior is a must, not everyone remembers that reinforcing employee's positive behavior is just as crucial.

You need to show your employees what exactly you don't want them to be doing anymore, but you should also show them what you want them to continue doing.

For example, if you liked the new ideas, one of your employees brought to the project, tell them that you like their creativity and want to see more of it. But if that same employee is bad at executing the ideas, they bring them to the table, tell them about it and explain how they can improve their executive skills.

#7 Don't give feedback in front of others

If you often read articles like How Can I Monitor My Employees Computer? you are probably very concerned with getting more control over your employees. But by giving feedback in front of other teammates, you won't actually be in control of the situation.

Instead, you will only humiliate and embarrass the employee in front of everyone else. This is why you need to provide feedback only face-to-face so that you get the kind of personal connection during the conversation that is required to convey what you mean fully.

#8 Define a plan and set realistic goals

Even once you start giving constructive feedback, it might still not be effective enough. This is because your employees might understand what they did wrong but won't know how to correct their mistakes.

Consequently, you need to define a further plan of action and set realistic goals for your employees. This way, they will know exactly what they should be doing next and how they can improve their behavior.

#9 Don't be late with giving feedback

One more mistake you can be making as an HR manager is giving feedback too late.

If an employee has made some mistakes, the best thing you can do is provide feedback as soon as possible, so they don't make these mistakes again. Moreover, if you provide feedback too late, the employee might not even remember these mistakes and won't improve.

#10 Focus on behavior – not the person themselves

When it comes to arguments, a lot of people tend to get personal and start insulting each other. Likewise, when giving feedback, you don't want to focus on the person but rather their problematic behavior.

You need the employee to improve by changing their actions, so you need to be addressing the actions instead of the person themselves.

#11 Let the employee engage with you

Another common issue in arguments is that people don't listen to each other and instead talk all the time. This is also true when you provide feedback.

As Adam Jackson from the custom writing reviews site Best Writers Online puts it, "Instead of talking all the time, let the employee engage with you and ask more questions they may have, propose ideas, and maybe even explain their past decisions."

#12 Follow up on your employees

After you have provided your employees with feedback, it isn't over yet. You need to ensure that they listened to you attentively and made the necessary steps to improve their behavior.

This is why it is so important to follow up on your employees, check how well they have followed the plan you agreed on, and see whether or not they have achieved the goals you set.

#13 Try different feedback techniques

Last but not least, don't forget to try different feedback techniques from time to time. If one method doesn't work, don't be afraid to experiment and try something new.

Some employees will need to get written reports with feedback, while others will be perfectly fine after a short conversation with you. Find the right approach to every employee separately.

Final thoughts

Giving feedback is not an easy task, especially if you don't have much experience in it. However, you can improve your skills over time by using the right practices.

Start giving feedback with the help of the tips provided in this article, and you will be able to increase your team's productivity.

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