Don’t Be Scary – How to Provide Constructive Criticism Without Being a Monster!

In every leader’s career, there comes a time when you have to give negative feedback to employees and team members. Someone might be underperforming, having interpersonal issues with another team member, or feeling disengaged from their work. These are the moments where you need to step up and offer honest feedback to try to help the situation. But it’s not always clear how to best give tough feedback in a way that won’t demotivate your employee(s). This post will walk you through ways to share criticism and feedback, without scaring your team!

Prepare before the “talk”:

It’s always important to plan out what you want to say and how you’ll say it. This helps you stick to the main points to address and make sure your negative feedback is delivered properly. If you can, try talking through your notes with a trusted colleague or friend for an outside perspective on how your feedback comes across. Remember to “sandwich” your negative feedback with positive aspects of how they are performing. Questions that may guide you as you prepare include: Am I naming a specific behavior and/or giving specific, concrete examples? What are a few of the most important points I want to express in my negative feedback? Do I have the next steps in mind for myself or the other person—how we can proceed forward? What are my intentions in sharing this feedback?

The point of having this type of conversation is NOT to punish:

Giving negative feedback isn’t about proving a point or punishing someone. Whether it’s to improve performance, address disengagement, or manage peer relationships, your intentions should always be positive.

Don’t make it personal:

Negative feedback should never be directed at an employee’s personality—it should be about their actions or behavior, both of which should be seen as growth opportunities and openness. Corrective feedback needs to be related to the person’s role, responsibilities, or otherwise relevant to the job. Always view negative feedback in a way that can improve team and employee performance overall. This is an essential function of a leadership role and can be one of the hardest to perform, but a good leader, a wise leader, and an empathetic leader can walk that fine line and deliver negative criticism in a positive way!

Speak and listen:

You have to remember that a conversation like this is a two-way street. Sometimes a good way to approach tough feedback is to start by asking for the other person’s perspective. Hear them out on their theories of what could be done better—you might even be surprised by the insights they have.

Next Steps:

Giving constructive feedback isn’t just about evaluating, it’s about resolving and growing. Ongoing feedback is a crucial part of improving employee performance and helping your team members grow. So beyond sharing your perspective on the present, be sure to discuss how the feedback applies in the future, and what actions your employee might take to apply it in their day-to-day.

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