The 12 rules of giving negative feedback to staff

Giving feedback is a sensitive issue, particularly if its negative criticism. Here are some tips to help you approach delivering negative feedback to your staff.

As a business leader, it often falls on to your shoulders to give feedback and criticism when a project is complete. In a perfect world you will rarely have to give negative criticism and that all your staff members are exemplary workers. But you will inevitably need to give some harsh feedback at some point in your career. In fact, it is to be encouraged!

Giving feedback is a sensitive issue. An employee might feel as though they have done an excellent job, when in reality, they performed poorly. You don’t want to hurt their feelings but you do need to let them know what went wrong and how to improve for next time.

Whats the best way to critique them without destroying their confidence?

There are many ways you can tackle this problem delicately and it is all down to your own approach and attitude to criticism yourself. You may need to understand that some staff members have slightly thinner skin than yourself and a strongly worded dismantling of their effort will hit them harder than you might expect.

Do we all understand?

You might start by ensuring that all your employees grasp the notion that feedback is a necessity of your company, and that they should expect to be given criticism on their performance; be that positive or negative.

You should then endeavour to act on this advice by regularly discussing progress with staff, encouraging and praising and guiding your team at all points of the process.

Open for discussion

Sometimes you won’t even need to tell staff members that something didn’t go well, as most peoples’ worst critics are themselves. If you draw a meeting towards the end of a project to discuss feedback, you can probably expect your team to be fretting and scrutinising their own performance way before you even enter the room.

Opening up the feedback session to a discussion will give you a breather to gauge how your team is feeling about the project as they might have better insight than you as to how they think they did. Ask them how they felt they did and what they think they could have done to improve might give you insight into how to approach delivering your own feedback.

If your team don’t feel like they did anything particularly wrong, don’t worry – conflict can be a useful tool to business leaders and staff to clear a cluttered environment after a long and difficult project. You will gain valuable knowledge on how your team process tasks and what they think needs to be done to streamline the process.

You might be fearful of this because it opens the opportunity for criticism to be fired the other way across the table at you, but that is the foundations of a strong and healthy business. Accept how your team feels and work together to find the solution.

Be Brave

It is never pleasant to negatively critique a staff member, particularly if you have a close-knit community within your business. Remind yourself of the reasons why you are giving feedback; because you want to improve the team and make the next project quicker and of a higher standard. You want to make sure your team are comfortable and able to perform the task at hand to your standards and to your deadlines.

Be brave and take that step or you will regret denying yourself the opportunity to set clear goals further on down the line.

Approach it calmly and with an open mind – don’t be bullish or aggressive – and you may find that your company grows because of it.

If you want to learn the rules of giving negative feedback, check out the infographic below.

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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