Ten smart rules for giving negative feedback

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Praising good performance is easy, but what about those times when someone on your team needs a kick in the butt more than a pat on the back? In that case, you’ll need to give some negative feedback and do it without demotivating or demoralising the other person. This post explains how. 

Before we get started, it’s important to remember that the goal of feedback is not to tell people what to do or how to do it. That’s mistaking the process for the goal. The actual goal of feedback – even negative feedback – is to improve the behaviour of the other person to bring out the best in your entire organisation.

With that in mind, here are the 10 rules:

1. Make negative feedback unusual

When a work environment becomes filled with criticism and complaint, people stop caring, because they know that – whatever they do – they’ll get raked over the coals. ‘I try to give seven positive reinforcements for every negative comment’, says Dan Cerutti, a general manager at IBM.

2. Don’t stockpile negative feedback

Changes in behaviour are more easily achieved when negative feedback is administered in small doses. When managers stockpile problems, waiting for the ‘right moment’, employees can easily become overwhelmed. ‘Feedback is best given real time, or immediately after the fact,’ explains management coach Kate Ludeman.

3. Never use feedback to vent

Sure, your job is frustrating – but although it might make you feel better to get your own worries and insecurities off your chest, venting a string of criticisms seldom produces improved behaviour. In fact, it usually creates resentment and passive resistance.

4. Don’t email negative feedback

People who avoid confrontation are often tempted to use email as a vehicle for negative feedback. Don’t. ‘That’s like lobbing hand grenades over a wall’, says legendary electronic publishing guru Jonathan Seybold. Email is more easily misconstrued, and when messages are copied, it brings other people into the fray.’

5. Start with an honest compliment

Compliments start a feedback session on the right footing, according to according to management consultant Sally Narodick and current board member at the supercomputer company Cray. ‘Effective feedback focuses on the positive while still identifying areas for further growth and better outcomes.’

6. Uncover the root of the problem

You can give better feedback if you understand how the other person perceives the original situation. Asking questions such as, ‘Why do you approach this situation in this way?’ or ‘What was your thought process?’ not only provides you perspective, but it can lead other people to discover their own solutions and their own insights.

7. Listen before you speak

Most people can’t learn unless they first feel that they’ve been heard out. Effective feedback ‘means paying attention and giving high-quality feedback from an empathic place, stepping into the other person’s shoes, appreciating his or her experience, and helping to move that person into a learning mode’, says Ludeman.

8. Ask questions that drive self-evaluation

Much of the time, people know where they’re having problems and may even have good ideas about how to improve. Asking questions such as ‘How could we have done better?’ and ‘What do you think could use improvement?’ involves the other person in building a shared plan.

9. Coach the behaviours you would like to see

Negative feedback is useless without a model for how to do better. But simply telling the other person what to do or how to do it is usually a waste of time.

10. Be willing to accept feedback too

If you truly believe that negative feedback can improve performance, then you should be willing to accept it as well as provide it. In fact, few things are more valuable to managers than honest feedback from employees. It’s to be treasured rather than discouraged or ignored.

Source: [http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-give-negative-feedback-10-rules.html]