We see a lot of managers hesitate or avoid giving negative feedback to employees when they’re noticing poor performance or behaviour in the workplace. Depending on your management style, providing feedback could be seen as confrontational or even a waste of time – “they should just know” – but prompt and effective feedback is critical.

As Christine says, “feedback is the breakfast of champions,” and engaged employees will thrive on feedback when delivered appropriately. Performance reviews are a great opportunity to provide structured feedback, but don’t wait for the annual review.

Especially where the feedback is performance related, it needs to be addressed right away. Delaying or avoiding giving negative feedback leads to the poor performance continuing, and it can send a message to others in your team as expectations become unclear and standards drop.

Tips for providing Feedback

Be clear

Highlight the specific task or situation you’ve noticed and explain why this isn’t meeting expectations, the impact it has on the business, and how you’d like them to behave or perform in future. Try to remain factual, and avoid sugar coating the situation as this can diminish the impact and effectiveness of the feedback.

Don’t make it personal

Having a clear position description to refer to will help to maintain an objective discussion, keep the feedback focussed on the requirements of the role, and how the employee’s actions contribute to the overall business. Avoid presenting feedback that refers to your personal opinions or feelings, or makes assumptions about the motivations behind their performance. Instead use objective observations and information that is specific to the situation.

Address things head on

Sometimes, delivering negative feedback can be difficult, especially if the recipient has a strong or forceful personality, or may be very sensitive. Dancing around an issue, or diluting the severity of the situation will not help.

Don’t allow problems to fester

Poor performance, attitudes and behaviours that are not addressed immediately become bigger problems over time. If not dealt with early, these issues can lead to negative impacts on your team culture, productivity, your customers and reputation, ultimately resulting in difficult situations as you try to repair the damage later.

How to approach giving feedback

Some situations require simple, brief, on the spot feedback, where an employee is learning or has a small slip up in behaviour and needs a reminder about what’s required of them in the workplace. While these may seem insignificant, remember that regular feedback reinforces the desired behaviours and expectations for all employees.

For more problematic situations, you’ll need a structured approach.

Let the employee know you have some important things to discuss about their role, and make sure you’re in a suitable environment to discuss the matter. If not, then make a time, as soon as possible, to meet with them. Depending on the seriousness of the issue, you may allow them to bring a support person, and you may elect to have another manager present. When you meet with the employee, address the behaviour or performance directly, and explain the impact. Give the employee an opportunity to also give feedback and then clearly outline the expectations for the future. Come to an agreement about any changes that need to be made and be sure to document these discussions.

Effectively providing feedback is an important and valuable skill when managing employees. We offer training in leadership and management to develop the skills required to have difficult conversations, and confidently manage underperformance in the workplace. Get in touch with our team for more information.