This Is How You Give Negative Feedback



The word itself frightens people. It builds up tension and makes people question their work performance.

However, not all negative feedback burns bridges. It doesn’t have to be the way we perceived; uncomfortable and unjustified.

When a culture of cultivating feedback is common and shared upon and negative feedback surfaces, employees are less likely to get defensive during the session. At Attune Press, we stress the importance of feedback with employees.

We get that negative feedback is a tough nut to crack, especially if it’s your first time, you might get mixed feelings or even feel intimidated by the other.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Don’t hold back negative feedback.


How would you feel if someone brought up something ages ago and told you about it now? Strange, isn’t it?

As the recipient, you wouldn’t know how to react because you’re overwhelmed with the number of negative feedback pouring your way. You become defensive because there’s too much to take in at once. As the feedback continues, you shut your ears because you don’t see how bringing all this up now solves anything.

When you hold back negative feedback that should be stated during that specific moment, you allow for built up criticism, anger, and tension within you. This is unfair for the employee, you, and the business. It puts a retrain for actual communication to work things out and looking at the situation objectively.

Don’t send negative feedback via email or any form or social network.


Holding back negative feedback was a no-go. What about emailing? WhatsApp? Posting it on Facebook? That’s a no from us too.

Many forms of miscommunication and misunderstandings stems from interpreting what the sender is saying on your own terms. In simple terms, you’re assuming. This affects your self-esteem excruciatingly and you form a bubble that separates you from reality. 

Direct face-to-face communication reduces the risk of such issues. Eye contact and nonverbal communication contribute to factor. More importantly, you’re able to listen to a person’s tone of voice. Most of the time, we react to something not because of what is said but the tone used when those words are said. And that’s what’s lacking in email and social networks; because we never know how the other person is feeling in real-time. 

Be specific. Focus on the behaviour caused.


Negative feedback is necessary when you’re serious in helping the other person improve themselves – not finding fault with. Speak of only what is necessary – nothing more, nothing less. Identify the behaviours that caused disruption to the task or team members and bring it to the employee’s knowledge.

However, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. The employee would appreciate it if you were specific and not beat around the bush at times like this to avoid confusion. Back to point number one, bringing up something ages ago will only make the employee wonder why you’re only saying this now, and not before. He will have trouble taking you seriously and listen to whatever you’re saying because he’s busy thinking about where you’re going with this and how to counteract in his own defense. 

Don’t forget. Mistakes don’t define a person.


We’re prone to make mistakes. We know what it’s like to be in that position. And it doesn’t define who we’re as a person, and the same applies to the employee. What we need isn’t another person reminding us we made a mistake, unless we’re oblivious.

We need someone who guides us so that we learn from it and tell us what we need to hear to be mindful. Not an employer who find fault and bring their employees down with authority. When you’re a boss who also acts as a mentor, it differentiates you from others who can’t be bothered to make things work where they ignore the problem and let it deteriorate.

Negative feedback doesn’t stop at telling the employee what they need to hear, and is a waste of time if the employee still doesn’t know what to do after the session. It goes on to establishing a mutually accepted plan on how to tackle each problem that was mentioned.

Help employees ask self-evaluation questions. 


You want employees to reflect after the feedback session, not walk away empty-handed, frustrated, and displeased.  You want them to analyse the areas they may be lacking for further improvement. However, the employee might be feeling “small” in this atmosphere. You should help the employee leave with good judgement and take it as a learning opportunity to perform better.

Asking questions that drive team morale, togetherness, and self-evaluation such as:

  • “What were some factors we overlooked?”
  • “How could we have done better?”  
  •  “What’s the best way to move forward?”

This is not a time for you to blame the employee or lower his self-esteem. It’s a time needed for communication, listening and understanding, and collaboration.

How willing are you to accept feedback?


You give employees negative feedback with a set of expectations in mind. You want them to listen and possibly act as you told them to. 

The same goes for employees. 

We hope you see that coming because effort is a two-way street. 

Similarly, you should listen to what your employees have to say and graciously accept the feedback. And this type of feedback is valuable because it’s honest and authentic. It’s to be treasured rather than criticised, discouraged or ignored.

When employees see that you’re someone who wants to see them become better at what they do and you demonstrated your willingness and dedication and lead by example as a leader, this makes it easier for them to do the same. 

Schedule when to follow-up.


So, you came up with a plan of action with the employee. Now what?

Here’re a few things to consider:

  • How are you going to measure the effective of this plan?
  • How are you going to ensure things are heading towards a positive change?
  • What are the steps the employee has taken forward?

Before the feedback session ends, there’re two crucial things to do:

Come up with a plan of action.

Set a date with the employee to follow up with the course of action.

Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to listen and stick to the plan. You want to determine the effectiveness of this plan and continue to improvise it so that you gradually get the outcome you want – for the employee and your business alike. 

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