The Right Way to Give Negative Feedback: 10 Do's and Don'ts


Effectively managing the performance of a team or individual employees to ensure continued productivity and business success is an important aspect of any manager with responsibility for staff. An inevitable part of staff management duties is to deliver positive or negative feedback when appropriate. Whilst praising staff and giving them credit are generally pleasurable tasks, few managers relish the prospect of delivering negative feedback.


This, and many other aspects of assessing and monitoring the performance of employees, is expertly covered in 'Performance Management'; a comprehensive two-day course presented by management training specialists Maguire Training. As well as learning how to evaluate good and poor performance, delegates will gain the knowledge and skills needed to resolve workplace conflict, conduct appraisals and use KPIs to measure performance and to develop their staff.


Although giving negative feedback might not be the easiest task for a manager it is necessary if performance standards are to be maintained and, handled correctly, it does not have to be unpleasant nor damaging to working relationships. Here, Maguire Training list 10 essential dos and don'ts to help demonstrate the right way to give negative feedback.


DO leave emotions at the door

Forget how annoyed or upset you might be at a particular situation; negative feedback needs to be delivered calmly and without emotional baggage but with focus upon the plain facts of the situation.


DON'T deliver negative feedback in a public place

Respect the individual by giving negative feedback in a private, quiet location in which you are unlikely to be disturbed by other people.


DO focus on actions, not the person responsible for them

Negative feedback should not involve personal criticism it is the actions or behaviours that have resulted in poor performance which are under scrutiny, not the employee themselves. Levelling personal criticism creates resentment and will undermine or destroy any future working relationship.


DON'T give vague reasons for negative feedback

It isn't enough to say that someone's 'performance is poor?' in order to effectively address the problem specific details must be given e.g. 'I notice that in your 3.30 call to a customer this afternoon you were rude and described them as a 'miserable waste of time? before hanging up on them'.


DO act immediately

Addressing the need to give negative feedback straight away nips in the bud the problem at hand rather than allowing it to escalate over time.


DON'T lose your cool

However serious the situation that has resulted from the employee's behaviour or actions, shouting or otherwise demonstrating anger or disgust with them will be severely counterproductive to the feedback process.


DO reassure the employee of your faith in them

The purpose of negative feedback is to address only a specific behaviour or action. Reassure the employee that you still believe in them and their ability to do a good job once the current performance issue has been satisfactorily resolved.


DON'T deny the employee the opportunity to give their side of the story

Having given the specific reasons behind your need to deliver negative feedback, invite the employee to give their version of events without interrupting them. Listen carefully to their arguments and any refutations and acknowledge to them that you have listened and understood.


DO jointly agree what needs to happen next

Work out between you and the employee what changes need to be made in order for acceptable performance to be re-established. This might include counselling, training, or a change in working practices or behaviours. Any agreed steps should be clearly documented and followed up at appropriate intervals.


DON'T dwell on the situation once resolved

Once the process is over and a way forward has been agreed, let the situation go other than to monitor the performance of the employee in the same way as your other staff.


Giving negative feedback is just one of the invaluable skills delegates will gain when they attend the classroom-based 'Performance Management' course. Managers who wish to gain the benefits of formal training but don't have time to attend off-site training can instead access 'Managing Good/Poor Performance', an online training version of the course which delivered via Maguire Training's own innovative mobile and E-learning platform.

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