Dinosaur seen from very close up that reflects the situation when someone does not know how to give negative feedback

February 6, 2017

Do we know how to give negative feedback?

Have you successfully built an organization with an incredible team and a fantastic organizational culture that runs smoothly? Congratulations!
Even in the most perfect teams, there are moments when you need to provide feedback on areas that need improvement. How can you offer criticism without disrupting the harmony of your organization? It's not an easy task, but it's possible.
The primary goal of feedback, even when it's negative, is to enhance the other person's behavior, bringing out their best and, in turn, improving the entire team.
Many leaders fear that sharing a differing point of view or providing critical feedback may harm their employees. When an organization's culture encourages learning from mistakes and promotes constructive communication, it creates the trust necessary to address issues without undermining the team's positive atmosphere. This ensures that staff remains proud of their team and committed to the organization and its leaders.
Here's something you should know: we all appreciate constructive feedback, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes, negative feedback can be more valuable than praise.
With that in mind, here are 10 concise tips for delivering negative feedback without hurting anyone's feelings within the organization:
  • Respect. The foundation of any enduring relationship, and it's equally vital in the workplace. Respect should be earned and never lost.
  • Ask for permission. Even if you hold a position of authority, starting a conversation by asking for permission to provide feedback can make your listener more receptive and curious about what you have to say.
  • Encourage self-assessment. People are usually aware of what problems they have and even know how to improve. Through questions, you will invite the other person to build their own action plan to improve.
  • Be mindful. Honesty in giving feedback doesn't grant a free pass to say whatever you want however you want. Remember that the ultimate goal is to help your team grow, become more efficient, and be productive.
  • Avoid masking negative feedback with compliments. Mixing criticism with praise can dilute your message and reduce its effectiveness. Keep negative comments separate from compliments.
  • Identify the root of the problem. After stating your observations, allow the other person to explain themselves. There might be underlying reasons behind poor performance or undesirable behavior. Always seek the other person's perspective.
  • Provide feedback in real-time. Negative feedback is much more effective if you give it immediately after perceiving the problem and prevent it from getting worse. In addition, this is how we will dose it, we should not wait to accumulate many complaints to release them on the table. Changes in behavior are most easily achieved when negative comments are delivered in small doses.
  • Make negative feedback the exception, not the rule. Don't undermine your team by overemphasizing criticism. Maintain a routine of positive feedback and use negative feedback sparingly when absolutely necessary.
  • Listen attentively. People need to feel heard. To make your feedback, whether negative or positive, effective, give your full attention and show empathy.
  • Explain negative feedback in the context of the positive result you want to achieve as a team. By doing so, employees will understand the positive impact that can be achieved through different approaches to their work.
In addition to these tips, always maintain a mindset of continuous improvement. Remember that making mistakes is normal, and even leaders make mistakes.
Regularly analyze what's working and what's not and devise strategies for improvement. Also, keep in mind that, just as we need constructive criticism, we also require positive feedback. Recent studies suggest an ideal ratio of five compliments for every critique. So, long live feedback!


Here's another valuable piece of advice: It's a good practice to provide feedback in a structured manner. Processes like Performance Evaluations or 360º Feedback offer all employees the opportunity to receive input from various sources, ensuring our ongoing growth. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses, particularly from a 360º perspective, provides a tremendous boost to our professional development. To learn more about this, you can find information here.