How To Communicate Negative Feedback To An Employee

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Employees are human, they make mistakes and every once in a while you need to provide some feedback for their performance.

Negative feedback isn’t something that anyone wants to receive.

The truth is that no one is perfect at their job and sooner or later they are going to need feedback on something that didn’t quite go as planned.

If you have a performance review with an employee on the horizon or simply need to have a quick chat with a team member about an issue that has arisen then we have some great tips that will allow you to communicate negative feedback in a constructive way.

Use The 4:1 Ratio

You’ve probably heard of the feedback ‘sandwich’ where you squeeze a negative comment in between two positives ones.

The 4:1 ratio is a similar concept however it relies on communicating 4 positive things that an employee has done to 1 negative aspect of their performance. This doesn’t need to be all in the one go – for example within a month you can highlight 4 times when an employee has done well to one time where their performance has dropped.

The idea is to provide frequent positive and negative feedback so that your team member doesn’t take any constructive criticism as a personal attack.

Don’t Delay Giving Feedback

A major problem some managers have is delaying feedback.

It might seem fine to say that you will do it tomorrow but tomorrow quickly turns into a week then a fortnight and before long you are bringing up an issue from 3 months ago. Realistically you want to provide negative feedback within 24 hours.

Not only does this mean that the issue is fresh in both yours and the employee’s mind but it also gets it out of the way and allows the employee to focus on improving their performance immediately.

Focus On The Issue Not The Individual

We mentioned above that negative feedback shouldn’t feel like a personal attack on the individual. If it comes across this way then that person will react adversely not only to yourself but perhaps to your organisation and their productivity will decrease.

Make the feedback about the issue instead.

For example rather than pointing out someone’s lack of presentation skills highlight areas of their presentation technique than can be improved and how you can help with this. This keeps the feedback to one particular issue rather than the performance or skills of the employee as a whole.

Communicating Negative Feedback To An Employee

Negative feedback is one of those things that no one wants to do but it is a necessary part of being a manger.

In addition to these tips you should ensure that any feedback is communicated in private and also that you outline ways in which they can improve. This could be undertaking training, specific guidelines or even just highlighting the issue for the employee to work on themselves.

Avoid taking your frustrations out on an employee and instead focus on communicating the issue to them while taking steps to minimising the chances of it happening again in the future.

Have you ever had to communicate negative feedback to someone? What steps did you take to do this and did it improve that individual’s performance?

We’d love to hear your comments.

Providing negative feedback to employees 

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