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Best Ways to Deliver Negative Feedback

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 2/10/2011

Delivering negative feedback is an unpleasant task, but inevitable at times. Read on for the best ways of delivering negative feedback, to take the sting out of such communication but still ensuring that the feedback serves its desired purpose.

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    Timeliness

    How to Deliver Negative Feedback The primary consideration when delivering negative feedback is to deliver them on time. Delivering negative feedback is unpleasant, but postponing such feedback or failing to provide negative feedback invariably escalates the issues, leading to situations that warrant more drastic actions than mere feedback. A manager not giving negative feedback to employee owing to the unpleasantness of the situation provides the employee with an excuse about remaining unaware of the expectations of him or about the inadequacy of his performance.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/David Levinson

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    Stick to Facts

    The best way of delivering negative feedback is to stick to facts and avoid opinions. Opinions depend on perceptions, very often remain subjective, and remain open to challenge by the person receiving the negative feedback. A manager telling an employee “I think your performance is below par and you have to shape up" is a subjective opinion whereas “The work study has established that an average worker processes 25 units a day. From your performance report, you process only 15 units a day. What could be the reasons for such below average performance," is based on facts which none can dispute.

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    Allow Opportunity for Self Introspection

    One way to mitigate the ill effects of negative feedback is to allow opportunity for self-introspection. For instance, one good way of giving negative feedback to employees is taking them through a process of performance standards in the context of departmental and organizational goals and standards would most certainly make the employee realize the gist of the negative feedback himself without the manager having to pin-point the same. Similarly, hearing out the employee’s reason for the cause of negative feedback not only prepares the ground for remedial action, but also mitigates the awkward situation.

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    Focus on Improvements

    The main purpose of feedback is to make effective criticism, by highlighting what went wrong, and to discuss ways on how to avoid such mistakes in future. The focus on negative feedback should, therefore, be on the reasons for such lapses, how to avoid such lapses in the future, and on discussing ways to overcome the underlying issues, rather than berating the employee, or trying to fix the blame on someone. If such an analysis is not relevant, it is best to keep the negative feedback short and to the point for conveying the required information clearly.

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    Focus on the Action

    Another good way of delivering negative feedback is to focus on the specific action and not on the person. The best practice to deliver negative feedback is to remain objective, and focus on what went wrong without any show of emotions. Avoid causal conversations or trying to strike up a rapport before delivering the negative feedback. This can only worsen the situation.

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    Confidentiality

    The most effective criticism is done in a private and confidential setting, with only the people in the loop, such as the employee’s managers and any HR personnel needing to remain aware of the same. Publishing negative feedback can have serious ramifications on the employee’s morale and can affect interpersonal relationships at work, besides being unethical.

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    Reaffirming Faith

    Finally, reaffirming faith in the person is a good practice when delivering negative feedback. This, however, depends on the situation. For instance, clarifying that the negative feedback is not a reason to lose trust or hope in the person, increases the employee’s commitment and encourages better performance, but reaffirming faith in the person when the negative feedback is a communication of the employee’s termination from the job is not a good idea.

    Source: Author's own experience.