The Benefits of Negative Feedback
Negative feedback. Constructive feedback. Corrective feedback. Developmental feedback. Whichever name you give it, giving a team member the opportunity to improve should be welcomed and not avoided.
Let’s be honest, none of us are perfect. Although our intentions may be well meant sometimes the execution may not be as effective as intended. We can over-do our strengths. We can take our eye off the ball. The same applies to team members too. Most people come to work to give their best so providing feedback, whether it be good or bad, has its role to play.
Despite recognising the value of providing negative feedback many managers struggle to deliver the messages that team members need to hear. This may be due to feeling nervous, a lack of confidence or lack of know how. Here’s our recommended way of delivering feedback:
- Describe specifically what happened (e.g., ‘I noticed that when you spoke to that customer you said……’)
- Describe the impact of what happened (e.g., ‘As a result the customer has…..’) and, if appropriate disclose your feelings (e.g., ‘and this makes me feel….’)
- Then say what you would like to have done differently or to continue to happen.
(Click here to read more about turning feedback into coaching in another blog article)
The reality is that letting people know that they can improve their performance is a positive thing to do and it needs to be done. Otherwise, standards slip, and mediocrity becomes the norm. Levels of customer service suffer, and it soon becomes a race to the bottom.
For those who still need convincing that balanced and laser-focused negative feedback adds value then read on...
My metaphor to explain the value of providing negative feedback is that of a sailing boat. Think of your team member as the boat and that positive feedback is the wind in their sails, moving them forward. No wind, no movement.
As the manager you’ll have your hand on the tiller, making sure that your team member is moving in the right direction. You adjust the tiller to keep the boat on course, always sailing to the conditions you face.
Below the surface you have the keel. This is very important as the keel keeps the boat balanced to prevent capsizing. Think of the keel as being the negative feedback, correcting people or maybe giving them a reality check etc. – something we all benefit from, so we learn and progress.
If you look at the proportions of the sail and the keel you can clearly see which is the much larger – and probably in a ratio of about 5:1. This ratio is quite significant – research (*) tells us that people need five pieces of positive feedback for everyone one piece of negative feedback. However, the ratio is 5:1 and not 5:0 – negative feedback that is focused and in proportion does add value.
So, the conclusion is that feedback is necessary. Whether it be positive or negative, developmental or corrective, most team members crave feedback that will help them improve. Feedback opens up opportunities for coaching, improvement and progression. Deliver feedback skilfully and with confidence and your team members will thank you. So will your customers.
Director & senior consultant