It would be nice if leaders and managers never needed to provide negative feedback to employees. The reality, however, is that tough conversations are often necessary for both an employee and an organization to grow. Not providing negative feedback can harm an entire team or company because it sets the tone for what behavior is acceptable.
Brooke Vuckovic, a clinical professor of leadership at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, provided tips for delivering negative feedback in a recent webinar and those tips were highlighted in an article on Kellogg Insight.
Prepare with purpose
For starters, it is important to prepare in advance for the conversation. Specifically, Vuckovic suggests identifying the “big-P” and “small-p” purpose of the conversation. Think of the Purpose as identifying why the conversation needs to take place beyond the issue that needs to be corrected. The purpose, on the other hand, is better thought of as your goal for the conversation. Vuckovic recommends focusing on what you can control – communicating the issue clearly, setting a specific follow-up date – versus something outside of your control like employee behavior changes.
Expect to get new information
When you’re providing feedback, there’s a good chance new information or perspectives will emerge. Vuckovic suggests expecting that to happen will leave you better prepared to address it. Consider how an employee’s version of events might be different or how you may have contributed to an issue by ignoring other behaviors or not setting clear expectations.
You have to listen
Providing feedback is not only about delivering a message. Ultimately, the goal is to change an employee’s behavior for the better. To make changes, employees often need to feel heard, which means providing a chance for a response. Vuckovic recommends using a “looping” strategy of paraphrasing the response back to the employee and asking if you’ve understood correctly and repeating this until both sides have a solid understanding.