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6 ways to give negative feedback

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It’s always easier to give praise and tell someone how well they’ve done, but things get trickier when it comes to negative feedback.

But because constructive criticism is important in helping employees learn and grow, leaders need to make sure they are delivering the less-than-rosy comments in the best way possible.

Here are six pointers to keep in mind the next time you need to set an employee back on track.

1. Make sure the poor comments are warranted
Negative feedback works the same way as nagging – too much and it becomes white noise. In order for your feedback to be effective, make sure you’re only giving it when needed and not for the sake of it.

Additionally, if bad feedback is something out of the norm, it’s more likely to stick with the employee.

2. It needs a personal touch
Because of the potentially touchy nature of negative feedback, it is best to do it face to face. Doing so via email or text message could risk your words being misconstrued, worsening the situation.

While it can be hard to deliver bad news in person, remember that this is also an opportunity for your staff to learn and gain advice from you.

3. Don’t sandwich the bad news
You may be compelled to create a “bad news sandwich”, where you start with a compliment, squeeze in the poor feedback, and then finish off with another positive point.

It’s not a bad idea to throw in some positive reinforcement, but chances are your real intentions may be lost, as people tend to focus on the good stuff. Be sincere and objective.

4. Go straight to the point
Remember, you’re leading this conversation, so make the effort to figure out exactly which aspects of the employee’s performance needs to be highlighted during the conversation before sitting down with them.

Beating around the bush, or focusing on too many issues at once, will dilute your constructive feedback and possibly leave your staff feeling more confused.

5. Admonish the problem, not the person
It can be easy to get personal when delivering bad feedback, but it is very important to keep in mind that you need to address the issue, not attack the employee. Being objective and fair will help your staff realise this is a learning experience rather than an ambush.

6. Be respectful
If you can only remember one thing from the list, this is it. Employees who feel they are being treated with respect, both in good times and bad, will be more likely to stick around for the long run.

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