Tag Archives: negative feedback

How to Deliver Negative Feedback

“But they suck!” Rita explained, a bit frustrated.

“And, that is what you told them?” I asked.

“In so many words. My team needs to hear the truth, the whole lot of them. If their performance is sub-standard, who is going to tell them, their mother?”

“And, how did they respond to you?”

“You know. It’s like they stopped listening to me,” Rita was calming down.

“I am shocked that they would behave that way, not listening to their manager,” my eyes directly on Rita’s eyes. A small crack of a smile, then a chuckle crossed her face.

“Look, if they need to tie their shoes, so they don’t trip, who is going to deliver the negative feedback?”

“Indeed, because they aren’t listening to you.” I paused. “So, who is the one person in the whole world they would accept negative criticism from, wholeheartedly? You, for example, who is the one person you would listen to about the negative way you are handling your team?”

“Well, I am talking to you.”

“Yes, but, you won’t take criticism, even from me. The only person you are listening to, right now, is yourself. Negative feedback is not to condemn, but to observe. So, let me ask you some questions –

  • If you had it to do over again, with your team, what would you do differently to get a different result?
  • What behavior, as a manager, could you do more of to get a different result?
  • What behavior, as a manager, could you do less of to get a different result?
  • What shift could you make, in the way you see the problem, to get a different result?

The most effective managers are not those who tell people what to do, but those who ask the most effective questions.” -Tom

Feedback Loops

Marion’s bottom lip protruded. If she was eleven years old, I would have sworn she was pouting.

“I think I know who said that,” she announced.

“Is it important?” I asked.

“Well, I think they have a chip on their shoulder and this evaluation was just a chance to vent, to make me look bad.”

“Marion, there are positive things in this evaluation, and there are negative things here. You like the positive stuff, but you don’t believe the negative stuff.”

“Well, I think this person has an agenda. I don’t think it’s me,” she continued to protest.

“Do you think that is part of the problem?”

“I don’t think it’s me,” Marion repeated.

“You are angry at the person who gave you the negative feedback and you would like to ignore the feedback,” I confirmed.

“Besides, even it were true about me, I can’t change, that’s just not me. I couldn’t do it. Out of the question. I don’t see how anyone could do that.”

I looked at Marion. Without a word. Silence.

“But if you could change, what would you do first?”

How to Deliver Corrective Feedback

Patrick was curious. “I think I understand,” he replied. “When I say you, I sound like a critical parent, no matter how good my intentions are. The word you triggers an emotional response.”

You didn’t do that right.

I nodded, “The word you positions you as the critical parent (ego state) and invites the rebellious child (ego state) to respond. But when you change the word to I, you invite a different person to the conversation.”

I need help with this.

“Who does that sound like?” I asked. “Does that sound like a parent or a child?”

“It sounds like a child. Children always say I want this or I need that,” Patrick replied.

“Exactly. And when you, as a manager use the word I, it positions you differently. More important, who does it invite into the conversation?”

Patrick was quiet, then his face brightened. “A child always asks the parent. When I use the word I,

I need help with this.

“I am asking for help from a parent. I have invited a parent (ego state) into the conversation.” Patrick smiled. This was making sense and now he knew how to go back on the floor and talk to his team member.

States of Mind
Rebellious Child vs Curious Child
Critical Parent vs Nurturing Parent

Never criticize, it invites a rebellious child to the conversation.
Ask for help, it invites a nurturing parent to the conversation. It is still corrective feedback, just speaking with a different person.

How to Deliver Negative Feedback

Patrick shrugged. “I have tried that sandwich thing where I start with something positive, then criticize the person, then end with something positive. But, my team knows I am making up the positive parts just so I can slide in the criticism. They are smart. They know the game. Sometimes, it just makes the person angrier.”

“Is it necessary for a manager to give a team member negative feedback?” I asked.

“Absolutely. If someone continues to do something wrong, they could develop a bad habit, hard to break. There may be a safety consideration. Even if it just wastes time, the team member needs to know,” Patrick replied.

“So, let’s talk about words. You and I understand the intent of negative feedback, and we have to find the words. Words mean things. I want to change the pronoun. Criticism uses the pronoun you.

  • You didn’t do that right.
  • If you would do it this way, it would be better.

“To a rebellious child (state of mind), you sounds like a critical parent. Even if it is a statement of fact or said in a nurturing tone of voice, you sounds like a critical parent and invites more rebellion.

“I want to change the pronoun to I.

  • I need help with this.
  • I am seeing this process a different way.
  • I want to speed things up here.
  • I would like to change this.
  • In what way can we make this better?

“This one simple change invites a different person into the conversation. Do you know why?”