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How To Deliver a Negative Employee Review That Drives Business Outcomes

Concannon Business ConsultingStrategy How To Deliver a Negative Employee Review That Drives Business Outcomes

How To Deliver a Negative Employee Review That Drives Business Outcomes

One of the keys to building a thriving business lies in unlocking the power of performance reviews. When leveraged correctly, employee reviews can improve engagement, foster a culture rooted in accountability, create tangible paths for career development and drive business growth. 


So, what happens when you have to deliver negative feedback? Because the reality is: words matter. Utilizing effective communication practices is pivotal in driving productive outcomes. Consider this example. Let’s say your boss sits you down for a performance review and says, “You were really careless with the last product implementation. It was riddled with problems. Don’t let it happen again.” Ouch. What are you supposed to do with that? 


What if you heard the following feedback instead: “The last product implementation had 37% more user errors than normal. What do you think we can do to mitigate these errors when we roll out phase 2?” A massive improvement, right? Using the right language can transform ineffective feedback into collaborative and powerful learning opportunities. 


Here’s how to deliver negative employee reviews in a way that’ll improve business outcomes rather than hinder them.


Focus on the Behavior, Not the Individual


When communicating constructive feedback to an employee, it’s imperative to remove emotion from the equation by focusing on the specific behavior(s) you’re looking to address in lieu of the employee as a person. When you shift the attention to the behavior, and feedback is delivered within the context of the role itself, it’ll prevent employees from becoming defensive or feeling like they’re being attacked. 


Here are two examples:


Instead of: “You’ve been missing deadlines. It’s careless and negatively impacting the entire team.”


Try saying: “I’ve noticed you’re finding time management a challenge. What can I do to help?”


Instead of: “You’re being too timid on the phone with prospects.”


Try saying: “We didn’t hit our sales targets last quarter. What do you think we can do to improve our numbers moving forward?” Show staff you’re invested in their success by offering additional training, allowing them to shadow a fellow employee, or joining them on the next few sales calls to make it a collaborative effort. 


Incorporating regular feedback into your organization’s training and development initiatives is the key to improving performance. Coupled with coaching and guidance, providing timely feedback helps employees identify challenges they’re facing and empowers them to play a role in removing those obstacles. 


SHRM shares, “Linda Richardson, a sales training coach and author of Sales Coaching: Making the Great Leap from Sales Manager to Sales Coach (McGraw-Hill Education, 2008), recommends integrating evaluative feedback (such as performance appraisals) with developmental feedback designed to improve performance. Developmental feedback is more forward-looking and relationship-oriented. It relies on coaching, guidance and mentoring rather than judging and criticizing.” 


Make Feedback Specific


In order to give employees actionable next steps to walk away with, feedback must be specific and factual. For instance, relaying that a form was filled out incorrectly isn’t very helpful. Instead, delve into the details. Review the specific aspects of the form that were completed incorrectly and how that individual can rectify the issue moving forward. It’s also valuable to provide context on why the task is important, tying it back to larger business objectives. By doing so, you’ll infuse a sense of meaning and purpose into an individual’s work and communicate their value in helping the company succeed. 


Ask Questions


Performance reviews are a powerful tool for opening up the dialogue and encouraging employees to strengthen their critical thinking skills. As Positive Psychology shares, “Ask questions that encourage reflection. Such open support can lead the person to understand what they did well, or poorly, while stimulating exploration and reflection.”


Asking questions allows the employee to lead the dialogue. Oftentimes, employees will provide valuable insight on how processes or culture can be improved and alert managers to any potential issues before they snowball into larger, costlier ones. Questions also establish an environment rooted in communication and transparency – demonstrating to employees that the company genuinely values (and acts upon) their input. 


Final Thoughts


While every company, review and employee is unique, leveraging these best practices to deliver negative feedback will help improve performance and productivity. How you communicate, right down to the words you use, will have a direct impact on how well (or how poorly) an employee review is received.

At Concannon, we help organizations drive engagement and profitability by developing the right infrastructure for your learning and development initiatives. To learn more about how our team of experts can help move the needle forward for your business, contact us today.

Mark Concannon