Helping Employees Embrace Negative Feedback

None of us succeeds in our careers without receiving negative feedback at least once.

Many of us understandably melt into a puddle of despair and never recover believing that if feedback is true (and when done correctly, it is) then we are losers of the first order and so…what’s the point? And we then settle for a career of mediocrity, never reaching our full potential.

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Since constructive criticism is essential to employee growth and improved performance, we’ve put together a short list of things you can do to help your employees embrace – or at least welcome – negative feedback.

  • Feedback is a tool, not a weapon.

Remember that your purpose is not to shame an employee but to help them improve. When done well, employees receiving less-than-gushing feedback will understand that you’re not trying to hurt them, but trying to help them improve. Truly caring about your subordinates comes across when feedback is given in the spirit of “you’re pretty good; here’s how to get even better.”

(Note: if you learn that someone is using feedback in a vindictive manner to colleagues and/or subordinates, it’s time to have a sit-down to discuss and reiterate that such behavior is not acceptable. Yes, the irony here is not lost on us: there’s the chance you’d be providing strongly worded negative feedback to a negative feedback bully.)

  • The “feedback sandwich.” Is it time to retire it?

Some people think the old “sandwich” technique of delivering feedback with a “compliment/critique/compliment” process can give a worker a “false sense of how they’re doing” (hearing two positives to just one negative can appear to mean that they’re doing well).

  • Try the “critique and solution” method instead.

For example, say someone regularly provides reports past deadline. Tell the employee why this is a problem: “Joshua needs to edit and proof the report and Tenisha then needs to lay it out graphically and if it’s late, you put them both behind in their schedule.”

Then together come up with a solution.  Ask the worker to think about why they’re regularly late with the report and then the two of you can figure out how the report can be done on time.

Understand that you may have to do something yourself to help the employee fix the problem. Perhaps the employee feels the deadline is too rushed and so you then offer to provide a longer lead-time/extended deadline.

  • Follow up is key.

And by follow up we don’t mean micromanage. Check in with worker regularly (let them know you will do so) and offer feedback. Once you feel the employee has improved as much as possible and/or you think is necessary, back off.

  • Failing to provide feedback means you’re failing your employee.

Many managers have a hard time offering criticism to subordinates, but you’re doing no one any favors if you don’t:

  • You’re allowing an employee to continue a sub-par performance, possibly hurting productivity and/or profits.
  • You’re showing other employees that a sub-par performance is okay.
  • You’re not helping your subordinate grow and reach their full potential.

None of us improves without making mistakes and then having someone see that we’ve made a them, professionally pointing it out then offering direction and suggestions for improvement.

Criticism therefore is important for all of us: it helps us improve and better ourselves. Failing to provide negative feedback/critiquing employees when warranted means they will continue performing poorly. And, because it’s part of a manager’s job to help employees improve, by letting a poor status quo continue, you’re letting your subordinates down.

While we encourage you to work with employees to help them improve, if one or more can’t – or won’t – accept your feedback and strive to improve and you decide to terminate, Helpmates can provide you with top-notch workers for your temporary, temp-to-hire or direct-hire needs. We hope you contact the branch nearest you to learn more.

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