HR professor

It Is Not Easy Giving Employees Negative Feedback

Giving employees negative feedback is a tough task for any manager. It has to be accomplished with tact. Very often, managers often find that despite being tactful in giving negative feedback, they find employees harboring a grudge against their bosses. The question is: how do we bell the cat?

No business school teaches you how to be tactful. The ability to be discreet can only be developed with empathy and sensitivity towards others. It is a continual learning process. You can learn to be tactful only by trial and error.

Imagine a scenario. Your team is disgruntled with a fellow teammate, who often snoozes in the middle of the meeting! You are called in to resolve the problem. What do you do? The typical response would be that the erring employee would be confronted, admonished and let off with a few warnings. Some managers shirk this responsibility by passing on the ugly task to the team head.

But the problem is not that a team member is catching up with his catnap. The problem is the employee's lackadaisical attitude, which could percolate into the team. When other team members notice that the managers are not interested in solving the problem, they soon learn to give less importance to team meetings.

Negative feedback is a must in extreme situations. Managers must make it a point to bring up the issue with their employees. With negative feedback, managers not just resolve the tricky problem; they also set an example of discipline for others.

Here's what you need to do to give your employee negative feedback:

Plan Correctly
If the topic is difficult to discuss, make sure you think through the whole conversation. Make a list of important points that you want to discuss with specific examples. Keep the entire conversation impassionate, without any strong remarks.

Decide on Appropriate Time and Location for Feedback
Sometimes, the closed office room is not a good place to give your employee negative feedback. It can be a daunting ambience for your subordinate, who may harbor deep resentment to your position of power. It would be best to take the person out of office premises, such as a restaurant. In this way, the ambience does not dictate a position of power between the two individuals.

Don't Be Vague or Wordy
The worst thing that you could do is to beat around the bush. Your vagueness could be agonizing for your employee. After exchanging a few niceties, come straight to the point. Your employee will appreciate your honesty and also respond in the same fashion.

Don't Make Personal Remarks
Avoid saying things like, "I think you have no table manners", or "Don't you take a bath at all?" This sort of personal remarks will put off the employee, make him defensive and rigid. If you have to address such issues, make a light worded comment such as "We need to talk about you getting some training on table etiquettes." Or "I want to discuss something very personal, so don't get me wrong... you seem to have a body odor problem."

Use Empathy
The employee should sense your sensitivity by your empathetic attitude. After you have addressed the problem, it is best to let the employee speak. Give him a patient ear. You will find him tumbling out with information that will help solve the problem. Empathy also diffuses a potentially volatile situation.

Offer Assistance
Let the employee know that you are on his side. Offer any sort of assistance that is feasible and make sure to live by your promise. Help him solve his personal and professional problems by talking it out with other team members. Assure him that you will help regain the respect of his colleagues

Be Firm
Take a firm stand. Look at the problem eye to eye. Don't shy away from addressing the issue. And once the issue is resolved, make it a point to congratulate the person.

Everyone likes bosses who are firm, strong and dependable. Be one.

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