How Negative Feedback Can Go Wrong

March 5, 2018

If you place any investment or esteem in your work, receiving negative feedback from your boss, a client or a report can be devastating. No matter how the feedback is delivered, it can chip away at a person’s confidence, if not their self-esteem and dedication to their job. Some bosses might think that if you have to deliver negative feedback, being frank about it will make the feedback stick, rather than that person brushing it off and making the same mistakes that caused that feedback.

For the person receiving the feedback, it can feel like a personal attack: many employees develop a defensive mindset when confronted with negative feedback, especially if the criticism seems unwarranted or misblamed. There’s also the possibility of being punished or fired for something they’ve done, and that fear can lead to people assuming any one-on-one conversation with their boss is going to lead to criticism.

However, what separates useful negative feedback from a harrowing, unpleasant ordeal is twofold: the criticism itself and the tone that it’s delivered with. People have different reactions to criticism: while some employees will appreciate frank criticism and see it as a means of self-improvement (in a “I’ll prove you wrong” sense), others can react by feeling that they’ve been attacked, singled out for mockery (particularly if there are others present when delivering criticism) or they could see it as unconstructive (as in, they cannot improve themselves with the feedback provided).

For the employees who do not react well to receiving negative feedback, it’s better to treat it seriously as it could be humiliating to know that not only are you not doing well at your job, but that people besides your boss knows it. Treat feedback on individuals as a one-on-one, confidential matter to ease their mind, and not allowing others to eavesdrop in means it’s less of a condemnation to them.

Each employee requires a different approach to delivering bad news like this, but all of them can interpret this as a challenge to be beaten rather that something to beat themselves with if you word it right and treat them with respect. At Soft Intelligence, we’re passionate about gathering feedback and ‘soft intelligence’ from your clients and customers, transforming it into straightforward and accurate data that turns the hassle of feedback processing into a breeze.

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