Male manager giving negative feedback to his female employee.

Wherever you are on the corporate ladder, delivering negative feedback to a direct report is no picnic. Many managers leave it until the year-end review because it makes them feel uneasy. However, delaying these difficult conversations will only lower the team’s productivity and discourage them from reaching their full potential. How can they improve if they’re unaware of the problems?

As much as you dread handing out constructive criticism, it can be a positive experience for all parties involved. Skip the awkwardness and learn to give negative feedback with the following tips.

DON’T Start with the Feedback Sandwich

Many leaders tend to sandwich negative feedback (what they want to say) between two positive comments to avoid confrontation. Forget this old-school management trick. This formula undermines the truth and, even worse, makes compliments sound insincere. Not to mention it’s so overused that the employee can see the harsh blow coming. Every time you praise them, they would subconsciously brush it off and suspect there’s a “but…” at the end of the sentence.

Remember that the point of giving feedback is to help someone perform better. How they react emotionally to it is out of your control. Be direct with your comments while showing that you care about in the company. Most importantly, give compliments and inputs separately to build trust.

DO It in Private

If you’re supervising multiple people, it might be tempting to evaluate their work in a group setting for the sake of efficiency. However, publicly addressing an employee’s weakness can have adverse effects. It not only embarrasses the individual, but also causes tension within the team dynamics.

Make it a point to set up a one-on-one with each of your team members. It’s better to have the review session on days when there are no back-to-back meetings, so you have enough time to discuss the issue. Choose a private meeting room to create a safe space. Doing so reflects your professionalism and respect for your peers.

DON’T Point Fingers

The key to giving negative feedback in a positive way is to refrain from blaming their character. Instead, focus on specific actions they can fix.

Let’s say your workmate has been coming late to the office. Rather than calling them a slob, reference their monthly attendance report and explain that can help them and the whole team work more efficiently. No one likes being cornered, but everyone wants to feel important. This trick does just that – shifting the conversation to how they can contribute to the company’s success.

DO Make It a Dialogue

There are always two sides to the same coin. Your staffer’s tardiness, for example, may be due to personal struggles or work overload. Try leading the session with empathy and treat it like a regular discussion, not an interrogation.

Once you’ve provided your feedback, give them a chance to share their POV. This is where your active listening skills come into play. Perhaps they need your help to get back on track. Or they might have not realized the impact of their actions. All in all, your goal should be to understand the problem and come up with a solution together.

DON’T Get Defensive

Some people may shut down or get ticked off after receiving negative feedback. When this happens, stay cool no matter how upset you are. Lashing out will only cause a scene, which honestly is not a good look for you. Pause and let them speak their mind until they feel calmer. Then, acknowledge their dissatisfaction and restate your feedback with sufficient examples. If the situation becomes more hostile, end the discussion.

DO Be Mindful of Your Body Language

Control your posture, facial expressions, , and overall demeanor when evaluating your employee’s work performance. Crossing arms and furrowing brows signal confrontation. So, maintain a more relaxed stance and eye contact. You can also before starting the meeting to break the ice.

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We can all agree that giving and receiving negative feedback is far from pleasant. However, it’s time to change your mindset. Don’t see it as a tense conversation but an opportunity to build up your team. So, go ahead and schedule the one-on-one.