Delivering Negative Feedback: What Your Team Needs from You


Imagine you run a small sales team. Although your business sells great products, customers are unhappy because your team is slow to process orders. The
performance of your team is harming the reputation of your business, so there is a clear need for processes and behaviours to change.

As a manager, sometimes you must deliver negative feedback because you need your team to change problematic behaviour or address inadequate performance.
However, for this feedback to have the desired impact, your team also needs certain things from you.

In this article, we explore what you can do or provide to maximise the positive outcomes from negative feedback.

The opportunity to explain their perspective

From your perspective, the problem is clear: your team is responding too slowly to new orders, and this is making customers unhappy. But what is your team’s
perspective on this situation?

By listening to your team, you may discover that actions or inaction on your part are contributing to their negative behaviour. Perhaps they are slow to
act because you have failed to clearly assign responsibilities within the sales process.

This doesn’t mean that their behaviour no longer needs to change – if it’s causing problems for the business, it needs to be fixed. However, learning that
you are contributing to the problem means that it’s now important for both your team and you to adjust your actions and resolve the problem

In this situation, listening to your team and addressing any shortcomings in your performance will spur both personal growth and organisational improvement.

Guidance, modelling, support, follow-up

No matter how talented your team is, problems will arise sooner or later and need to be addressed. However, you can minimise the frequency and impact of
these problems – and the need to deliver negative feedback – by ensuring that you are there for your team before, during and after the problems emerge.

  • Provide clear guidance on what you expect from them
  • Model the behaviour you want to see from them
  • Support them by being available to provide clarification whenever questions come up
  • Follow up after providing negative feedback to check on progress and ensure you are all on the same page

Both positive and negative feedback

If you want your team to be receptive to negative feedback, remember to also give positive feedback and encouragement when it is warranted.

Your team can’t read your mind, so if you’re happy with their work, you need to tell them so. If you don’t make this clear and instead give feedback only
when it’s negative, your team may end up thinking you’re ungrateful of the good work they put in. This may lead them instinctively to become defensive
whenever you start to discuss their work.

By being mindful about sharing both positive and negative with your team, you will over time encourage open communication and build trust.

The opportunity to give you feedback

Fostering open communication with your team is a two-way street. Just as giving your team the opportunity to explain their perspective is important, so
is encouraging them to give their feedback on your performance.

Providing direction and leadership are crucial to being a good manager, but so is giving support and empowerment. By enabling your team to tell you honestly
how you are doing as a manager and being receptive to their input, you can build an organisational culture where feedback is welcome and used to help
everyone become better in their job.

The aim of negative feedback is to spur positive change. And for this to be effective, both you and your team must meet each other’s needs as you work
together to make your business stronger.

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