Negative feedback and negative employees don’t always go hand in hand. Providing constructive criticism to someone whose only response is defensiveness can feel like screaming into a black hole. But there are ways to give feedback to employees who act like they know it all and don’t need to improve. Here are some strategies to help you explain what someone might be doing wrong in a way they’ll truly take to heart.
When you need to provide feedback to an employee prone to get defensive, take them out of a shared or public space and talk with them privately. They are likely to feel more attacked if they have an audience who they perceive as judging them. The private conversation will let them know the information is confidential.
Avoid Blanket Statements
Sometimes, managers will provide feedback on behavior in the context of a team meeting. This can backfire as the message may not reach the intended person, and those who are not engaging in the behavior will become frustrated by being called out for something they didn’t do.
Control Your Emotions
No matter how you want to respond to them, control your emotions. Deliver the information factually and calmly. It’s important to avoid the temptation to defend yourself. However, you can be firm as you share the feedback, Be sure to avoid defensiveness or aggression in return.
Scheduling the Discussion
Sometimes you may need some time to process your feelings about the situation. That’s fine. Schedule the conversation to give you the ability to prepare and be objective. This will also give your employee a chance to think about the situation with a bit of distance.
When delivering negative feedback, be specific. You need to provide examples and action items so your employee can use to improve their performance or behavior. If you’re unable to be precise, your feedback may go ignored as they cannot conceptualize the problem. They may feel like you’re picking on just them.
Reinforce Good Behavior
Of course, even when giving feedback, you need to provide positive reinforcement. Let your employee know what they’re doing right and what you like about having them on the job. When they actively work toward improving, reinforce it through gratitude.
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