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How To Give Negative Feedback To An Employee

Published January 17, 2019 (last updated June 24, 2020) Author: Employsure
2 employees discussing something

As a business owner, no doubt you have had a number of employees that have, over time, said or done the wrong thing. Whether they have gone completely off the rails, or whether it was a simple mistake during their work that led to a big problem for a client. Or it could be that they seem to be making the same mistakes over and over again. When it comes time to actually talking to them about it, it can be very touchy – particularly if you want to maintain a positive working relationship.

Providing negative feedback, however, is essential if you want your business to run efficiently. There is a right (and wrong) way to do so. Here are our top tips for how to give negative feedback to an employee that will maintain relationships and a positive working environment:

Step One: Stop And Think

While you want to provide feedback to your employee as soon as possible after the problem arises, raising the issue right away could cause more drama than it’s worth. You’ll probably still be a bit emotional about it, so take a few deep breaths. You also don’t want to ruin your employee’s motivation so consider the best time to mention it. For example, could it be better that you organise a meeting with them at the end of the day, rather than discussing it at 11am when the incident occurs?

Step Two: Privacy

Don’t discuss the problem with them in front of their colleagues. This is not only embarrassing for them, but it could reduce the confidence other team members have in them – providing problems within the group. Also, never discuss problems with them via email or text. Give them the time they deserve with a face-to-face meeting. Take them to a meeting room to discuss the issue in private. This also lets you make sure they are getting the message (and taking notice of it).

Step Three: Be Specific

When you’re giving negative feedback, be as specific as you can be. Make sure you include good points as well, but when it comes to the negativity, discuss a particular scenario in depth. The way you deliver your feedback is as important as the actual feedback itself. Don’t yell. Start by telling them the good things they have been doing; then be polite and offer a sense of understanding – perhaps even mentioning a some of the mistake you’ve made in your working journey.

Step Four: Don’t Make It Personal

It’s easy for one-on-one feedback meetings to feel like an ambush for the employee in question. At all times keep the discussion about their professional conduct and performance, and don’t use it as an opportunity to unleash a torrent of grievances covering everything they’ve ever done wrong. Stick to the problem at hand, and be honest about it. Start with a compliment, then discuss the specific issue with them.

Step Five: Ask For Feedback In Return

When you’re bringing up an issue with an employee, expect that they will defend themselves – and they might have some not-so-nice things to say in return. Be prepared. In fact, go one step further and ask them outright – “What can I do to better support you?” Feedback is essential for business success.

Step Six: Use The BIG Theory

Behaviour. Impact. Get Agreement. Talk about what happened and the behaviour you saw or heard. Then discuss the impact this behaviour has had on clients, colleagues or work in general. Offer positive reinforcement to your employee and come up with a plan that will see change. Finally, agree on a way you can both move forward.

The most important thing is that you do what’s best for your company and if you need any further advice or assistance, contact Employsure for a confidential discussion.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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