Negative feedback has suffered something of a backlash over the past few years, as the cult of positivity in the workplace has sought to keep atmospheres rosy and upbeat—often to the detriment of business. We are told that negative feedback cannot be productive, when in fact it can improve performance, if specific enough. And we are told that even when it is necessary to give negative criticism, it should be done in private—an attitude that fails to take into account the needs of a team to grow together.
So how should you approach that difficult moment when giving negative feedback becomes necessary? And how can you make sure it is for the greater good?
For a start, you can make things easier on yourself by scheduling in regular (weekly) feedback sessions in which specific negative feedback plays a part. By normalizing this approach and making it part of the routine, you remove the bad feeling that comes with unexpected confrontation, and both you and your employees can get better at giving and taking feedback.
You can also make things easier on yourself by allowing your employees a chance to self-review before you give your appraisal. Chances are, they already know what’s wrong. Encouraging them to discover it about themselves can help you to grow together. They might have a different take on the matter altogether, so you should remain open to other points of view.
And once you’re done, remember to ask for feedback on your feedback. It’s never easy to criticize others, so it’s important to make sure that your words are facilitating improvement and not hurt. It will also let the criticized person feel they have a voice.
For more ideas on how to approach this difficult process, check out the infographic below. It’s packed with solutions for how to turn a problem at work into a winning situation for all.