HR Grapevine
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Best practise: Giving negative feedback

Receiving feedback is part and parcel of anyone’s career, but how can managers ensure employees aren’t ignoring negative criticism?
Best practise: Giving negative feedback

BEST PRACTISE: GIVING NEGATIVE FEEDBACK



Receiving feedback is part and parcel of anyone’s career, but how can HR ensure managers are giving constructive criticism in the right way?

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There are several responsibilities all managers are tasked with: from delegating specific deadlines to hiring new members. All are important. Another key component is delivering feedback to employees - whether its positive or negative. This crucial communication between a manager and employee is essential to a smooth-running business

But, how important is it? Not only does it allow employees to develop their skills, according to a study carried out by Officevibe, delivering feedback is 30 times more likely to help make employees actively engaged at work, especially when managers focus on their strengths. Meanwhile, in a 2009 Gallup Inc. study of over 1,000 US workers, managers who give little or no feedback to employees resulted in four out of ten workers being actively disengaged. With it this clear that providing feedback is crucial to building a great relationship and rapport among employees and managers, it’s important it’s done well. Yet HR will know that part of feedback can be negative. So, how can they ensure employees are engaging with not-so-good feedback, or constructive criticism, and actioning against points made?

 

Trusting relationships

It’s natural to listen to people we trust, as such if a manager has a trusting relationship with their staff members it will lead to better communication when it comes to offering some constructive criticism. This rings true with Pascale Goy, Head of Learning & Development Group, CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research, who believes it all lies on who is sharing the feedback, which will ultimately help sway employees to listen and not ignore negative comments.

“The first reaction when you receive negative feedback is you look at who is giving it, whether you have a close connection or not and whether you want to take it or ignore it,” she explains.

“We are doing more training around giving and receiving feedback, because this is becoming a crucial skill in personal and professional development. We all know by experience that being able to receive negative feedback is part of growing up. So, for this reason I think workers aren’t ignoring feedback it just depends on who gives it.”

Similarly, Andrea Smith, HR Director UK & Ireland at Coty Inc., the multinational beauty company, agrees that it all boils down to trust. Having open communication between a manager and employee will ensure that they acknowledge feedback whether it is negative or positive. “Lack of trust in managers being receptive to two way and open dialogue can cause a communication gap,” Smith says. “When workers feel that they are not being listened to, or their own feedback is being ignored, this leads to workers feeling that their opinion has no value. This results in workers not acknowledging feedback on areas of improvements.”

Delivery of negative feedback shouldn’t be a painful process or used as a tool to describe an overall terrible weakness in a worker.
Andrea Smith, Coty Professional Beauty

Delivery of negative feedback shouldn’t be a painful process or used as a tool to describe an overall terrible weakness in a worker.
Andrea Smith, Coty Professional Beauty
 

Communication is key

Mastering the ability to speak with employees to share feedback is a valuable technique for any manager, one that HR should make a priority within any workplace. Of course, when it comes to negative comments, managers will be wading into dangerous territory, but when it is delivered in a functional and fair manner the chances are that employees are going to listen and aim to work on any issues that may be affecting their role.

In fact, Smith believes it all comes down to how managers deliver the feedback, as communication is key when it comes to discussing someone’s strengths and weaknesses. She tells HR Grapevine: “Delivery of negative feedback shouldn’t be a painful process or used as a tool to describe an overall terrible weakness in a worker. It should be an opportunity to acknowledge an outcome that needed a different approach, include the reason why, and what should be done differently next time, to deliver a better result or outcome.”

Building a ‘learning culture’

Jill Maples, HR Director at Hermes, the courier service, insists that feedback of any form is ‘developmental’, which can help to build up an employee to be the best they can at work. “By equipping our managers and leaders with this understanding and supporting them in their own development in how they position feedback, our employees naturally become more receptive and we have recently seen an increase in those seeking out feedback. As we continue to drive this agenda you see the skill developing in others and we actively encourage our employees to feedback too,” she comments.

“Building a learning culture takes time, but we must continue to work with our teams to showcase how feedback in any form should be used to allow people to maximise their potential.”

Once a culture of learning has been established, managers will not be afraid to deliver negative feedback, while employees will be more open to receiving such comments. This is something Stuart Hearn, Founder and CEO of Clear Review, believes to be essential to any organisation. He suggests that HR should use negative feedback as a ‘springboard’ to improve individual employee’s progress within the workplace if it is to move forward.

He concludes: “If you build a culture of communication – if you embed feedback and dialogue within your organisation and ensure that candour and honesty are delivered in a constructive way – then the negative should always be a springboard for development and growth. If you keep the following tips in mind, you should be able to focus these conversations on what’s possible, not what went wrong.”

Building a ‘learning culture’

Jill Maples, HR Director at Hermes, the courier service, insists that feedback of any form is ‘developmental’, which can help to build up an employee to be the best they can at work. “By equipping our managers and leaders with this understanding and supporting them in their own development in how they position feedback, our employees naturally become more receptive and we have recently seen an increase in those seeking out feedback. As we continue to drive this agenda you see the skill developing in others and we actively encourage our employees to feedback too,” she comments.

“Building a learning culture takes time, but we must continue to work with our teams to showcase how feedback in any form should be used to allow people to maximise their potential.”

Once a culture of learning has been established, managers will not be afraid to deliver negative feedback, while employees will be more open to receiving such comments. This is something Stuart Hearn, Founder and CEO of Clear Review, believes to be essential to any organisation. He suggests that HR should use negative feedback as a ‘springboard’ to improve individual employee’s progress within the workplace if it is to move forward.

He concludes: “If you build a culture of communication – if you embed feedback and dialogue within your organisation and ensure that candour and honesty are delivered in a constructive way – then the negative should always be a springboard for development and growth. If you keep the following tips in mind, you should be able to focus these conversations on what’s possible, not what went wrong.”

If you embed feedback and dialogue within your organisation and ensure that candour and honesty are delivered in a constructive way – then the negative should always be a springboard for development and growth.
Stuart Hearn, Clear Review
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