Offering negative feedback is an uncomfortable prospect, but it’s necessary if positive change is to occur. However, we never know how our input will be received, and we have no control over what the listener will do with the information we provide. “It’s important for an employee or candidate to understand why they weren’t moved forward or what they need to do to take the next step in their career,” said Cheryl Hyatt, a partner at Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search. “Honest feedback is critical, but how that feedback is relayed is more important.” Before we offer feedback, we should ask ourselves what this person really wants and needs to know. Listing everything you find problematic about a project or process isn’t productive if the person isn’t ready to hear this information. “A request for feedback might actually be a request for help or approval,” Hyatt said. Decide what your most important observation is; a litany of criticism isn’t helpful. It’s also vital to understand your own motivation. Ask why you’re having a negative reaction to what this person is doing. “Are you seeking to show that you’re the smartest person in the department, or are you genuinely motivated by a desire to improve the person or project?” asked Hyatt. Finally, ask what will happen if feedback isn’t provided.
How to Offer Negative Feedback in a Positive Way