How to Make Negative Feedback Less Awkward

Negative Feedback blog

Your stomach drops, shoulders tighten, feet dig into the floor—you brace yourself for it… negative feedback.  Through a thin shield of self-esteem, you soak it in and walk away quietly defeated.

Negative feedback is hard to take.  And just as hard to deliver.   It quickly gets emotional and even personal.

Here are some tips on how to make negative feedback moments less awkward.

How to Accept (and even Embrace) Negative Feedback

Think back to high school and the dreaded red pen comments on papers.  Targeted personal feedback from teachers is how you learned.  The students who read those negative comments and took them to heart grew as writers.  Your teacher was doing you a favor.

And so is your boss.  Growth-producing feedback should be something employees desire because it helps them grow.  A pat on the back doesn’t move anyone forward very far in their career.  Employees should learn to embrace rather than resist feedback.  Joseph Folkman, Forbes contributor says, “Resisting receiving negative feedback does not make the feedback disappear, nor does it improve your effectiveness: feedback is a gift, not a punishment. Resisting feedback keeps a person from improving.”

Employees should even go as far as to seek out feedback.  It doesn’t need to come from only a manager but can come from coworkers, customers, or others.  Your positive reaction to the feedback will encourage more honest feedback.

A Positive Reaction to Negative Feedback

To stay positive while receiving negative feedback, Dick Grote of Harvard Business Review recommends that employees acknowledge that they hear and understand the feedback.  Use active listening skills and listen instead of trying to refute or justify behaviors. “Even if the negative feedback we’re getting is demonstrably wrong, it’s not in our best interest to immediately try to prove it,” Grote says. “Try to prove someone wrong and we become argumentative. We’re close-minded to the useful information that may be hidden in the poorly presented feedback.”

After the feedback is given and accepted, make any necessary changes, but don’t dwell on the negative—move on with a positive attitude.

How to Deliver Negative Feedback as a Manager

Every manager has his or her own working relationship with each employee.  And delivering feedback is a part of that relationship.  While a positive relationship is important, managers also need to do what is best for the company—and this means holding employees accountable.  Every employee cannot be an “A” student at every review.

When delivering negative feedback, managers should show they care about an employee’s growth.  Offer constructive criticism, identifying ways employees can improve.  Ashira Prossack, ForbesWomen, explains: “Constructive criticism helps employees see where they need to improve and why making those improvements is important. It’s a well-rounded approach because it offers both a critique and a solution. When providing this type of feedback, explain exactly what is that you are criticizing and the implications that come from it, and then create a plan to help the employee improve.”

When giving feedback, the more specific examples the better.  For example, if a manager wants an employee to turn work around more quickly, he/she can give suggestions on what to prioritize.  Ask employees how time is spent and explain reasonings behind suggestions.

During a conversation, managers should keep in mind their tone and body language.  Understand that employees may be fearful about receiving a warning or losing a job and reassure employees whenever possible.  Provide a future date to follow up on any next steps personally with employees.

At Artemis Consultants, we care about the manager/ employee relationship.  Job seekers and employers come to us looking for a job fit in SaaS, B2B Tech, and Data Services recruiting.

We embrace your feedback on our services or our blog articles.  Let us know what you think about delivering feedback.

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