Three Mistakes Leaders Make When Delivering Negative Feedback

Feedback is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal as a manager to enable the people around us to grow into the best they can be and truly reach their potential.

It gives us a means of making others aware of the things they are doing well, as well as some of the things that a team member might need to look at changing, starting or doing slightly differently into order to be more effective.

Despite the fact that negative feedback is universally considered to be a fundamental part of growth, it’s often easier said than done.

When delivering negative feedback at work it can often create a sense of guilt, awkwardness, and hostility.

However, it doesn’t need to be this way… in fact, by making a few simple tweaks you can avoid the pitfalls leaders often fall into when delivering negative feedback.

Mistake One: Giving feedback on attitude instead behaviour

It’s absolutely crucial when learning about feedback to understand the difference between attitude and behaviour, because we can only provide feedback on one of these.

Attitude refers to a person’s mindset. It relates to what a person is thinking. How effective would you consider yourself to be at accurately guessing what someone else is thinking at any given moment?

The answer is that we cannot know what others are thinking. We may guess, but we cannot ever know for sure. Therefore, we can never provide feedback on what someone is thinking.

Feedback can only be provided on what we have actually observed people say or do. This is a known behaviour.

Mistake Two: Failing to be specific

It’s absolutely crucial when delivering negative feedback to be as specific as possible, so the person you are delivering it to can clearly see what they have done incorrectly.

Even if you are delivering feedback on an ongoing behaviour, make sure that you can pinpoint a couple of clear examples rather than making vague, overarching statements.

For example, something you should say is:
“You could have improved your presentation this morning, by encouraging the team to engage more and asking questions. Next time you could reduce the length of your presentation slightly to allow for more two-way communication.”

In contrast, something you should not say would be:
“Your presentation skills aren’t very engaging.”

Mistake Three: Forgetting to suggest ways to improve

It’s important to remember that the very reason we give negative feedback in the first place is to empower our team to become the best versions of themselves.

In order to do this, any form of negative feedback should be delivered in the context of growth and improvement, as opposed to pure criticism.

When delivering feedback, highlight the specific outcome or results you would like to see, so your employee understands what “good looks like”.

Doing so will not only highlight to your employees that you genuinely care about their growth, it will also give them a clear path forward – as they will walk away focusing on the behaviour they can change, as opposed to what they have been doing “wrong”.

Ultimately a culture of feedback is one of the quickest ways to consistently achieve outstanding results, grow personally and become a better team and company.

If you want to start building a culture of feedback within your team, start by reading this article The Golden Rules of Giving Negative Feedback


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