8 things to keep in mind while delivering ‘negative’ feedback

Everyone has put themselves in others’ shoes at one point in their lives and thought, “I could have done that better”. This is innate human nature. However, how do you express this particular emotion? Therein lies the problem that trainers/mid to senior level managers face in today’s corporate environment. Can trainers/managers shout at trainees/employees in order to get work done in the present day and get away with it? Perhaps, but this ‘technique’ is definitely not ideal and must never be used in the workspace. Raising your voice or taunting trainees/employees is unqualified, unprofessional and amateur. Let us now look at 8 things that trainers/managers have to keep in mind while delivering ‘negative’ feedback:


  1. Make feedback a weekly routine. Whatever communication style a trainer/manager uses, if the feedback is relayed in a routine manner, the trainee/employee will expect it and hence the impact of the negative feedback is cushioned.


  1. Ask for permission to give feedback. Approach the trainee/employee and inquire if the person is OK with being given feedback. This bridges the gap between the trainer/manager and the trainee/employee and allows for a free flow of communication.


  1. Concentrate on what could have been done. Trainers/managers focus on the error committed by trainees/employees more often than the process of rectification of the error. Instead of stressing on the mistake, trainers/managers must always look at ways a certain task could have been accomplished and educate the trainee/employee regarding the same.


  1. Never ask to alter personality. Trainers/managers must be very careful so as to not ask trainees/employees to change their personality traits. Instead, they must request them to change their behavior. For example, Trainer A must not ask Employee X to make personality changes or to “be more extroverted, more social”. The trainer must in fact concentrate on the behavioural aspects – what he/she sees or hears.


  1. Do not stockpile negative feedback. Trainers/managers must not wait for the opportune moment and vent out their frustration on a trainee/employee with details of his/her past errors which were not addressed at the time. According to Kate Ludelman, “Feedback is best given real time, or immediately after the fact”.


  1. Do not email negative feedback. Trainers/managers who avoid confrontation resort to using text messages or emails to convey their emotions. This must be avoided. Face-to-face conversations work better and leave no reason to be misconstrued.


  1. Coach correctional behavior. Trainees/employees sometimes fail to identify and practice behavior that is originally expected from them. For example, Employee A comes in late to the organization by30 minutes every day. Instead of just criticizing and warning the employee, a good manager would find out the problem, find a solution and coach the employee on time management.


  1. Do not make feedback personal. This rule applies to positive as well as negative feedback. When trainers/managers involve personal affairs in feedback, things are bound to get unprofessional over the long term.


Delivering feedback happens every day in organizations and ultimately the objective is to change or modify certain behavioural aspects among trainees/employees which will undoubtedly help the company in the long run. If the above steps are followed, the feedback process, just as the training itself can yield more fruit than one can imagine.


– Naresh Mulkunte

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