How to give negative feedback in a constructive way

Career + Application


Criticism is probably one of the most underused tools to help workers develop. Critical Feedback helps employees see where they need to improve and why making those improvements is important. 

When it’s not delivered properly, though, employees aren’t receptive to it. If negative feedback is constructive, it offers both a critique and a solution.

Still, using the much recommended “sandwich method” - compliment, criticism, compliment - might not work. The employees have just received two positives and one negative, so they take that to mean that they’re doing well, writes Ashira Prossack, a Millennial & Gen Z engagement expert in Forbes Magazine. “When providing feedback, explain exactly what is that you’re criticizing and the implications that come from it, and then create a plan to help the employee improve.”

Just criticism is not enough. Once the feedback is delivered, executives need to follow up. Managers need to provide guidance to help employees stay on track with their progress. Prossack recommends: “Don’t micromanage, but do check in regularly to monitor their progress and offer ongoing feedback. Give more guidance and touch base more frequently in the beginning. As you see the employee progressing, start to back off and let them take full control. Most importantly, acknowledge when they’ve made the improvement.”

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to providing feedback. If an employee is underperforming, it’s the manager’s responsibility to let them know that. Chances are, the employee is aware that their performance isn’t up to scratch. Prossack recommends: “Frame the conversation in terms of you wanting to help them to overcome the problem or challenges they’re having. If you approach the conversation by letting them know you see their struggle and are offering to help, they’ll be much more receptive of the critique.”

In a nutshell: Provide the critique, explain the implications of it, explain how it can be improved. Then check for understanding and solicit feedback from the employee. This ensures that the employee understands what they need to do and gives them the opportunity to ask questions.



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