Get Positive Results When Giving Negative Feedback

Criticism, even when it’s meant to be constructive, is sometimes difficult to deliver effectively. 

When you have to correct a mistake or improve an employee’s performance, follow these steps for getting your message across without creating bigger problems:

• Know what you want to achieve. Before you offer any criticism, think about what results or changes you need. Telling an employee, “You were totally ineffective,” may be accurate, but it doesn’t tell the employee what you expect. Your goal is to correct the problem, so think through what the employee needs to do differently.

• Use specific language. Employees need to know exactly what they did wrong in order to improve. Instead of saying, “You screwed that up,” explain the problem in precise terms: “You didn’t bring the right equipment, which meant you took longer than necessary to complete the work.”

• Focus on improvement. Point out mistakes and problems, but don’t dwell on them too long. Explain the issue, then start talking about how the employee can improve: “Next time, carefully think through what the project needs and keep an eye on the clock to stay on schedule.”

• Check their response. Be sure employees are listening to what you’re saying, and not burying their emotions only to explode later. Simple, unchallenging questions like, “What happened when you did that?” will help you find out if they’re engaged in the conversation.

• Praise improvement. When an employee’s performance improves, make a point of recognizing it: “That job went much quicker than the last time.” Reinforcing improvement will reduce the need for you to revisit the problem.

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