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Importance of giving Negative Feedback.

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Most organisations have strong performance feedback processes & systems in place. Providing feedback (positive & negative) is key to any performance feedback mechanism. It has been seen that negative feedback is either neglected or sidelined due to multiple reasons. In today's context, providing negative feedback has become more important than providing positive ones, simply from the impact perspective. Someone is in dire need to know if he/she has taken a wrong path than someone who is on the right track. One of the reasons why a performance feedback fails in its objective of developing an employee is that negative feedback is never provided effectively. This article talks about importance of negative feedback and how organisations can bring positive outcome of negative feedback. HR needs to play the most crucial part in bringing in effectiveness in feedback mechanism by creating an organisation culture which enables & promotes providing negative feedback

Real benefits of providing negative feedback is sometimes not understood by line managers. This is where HR needs to make managers understand the importance of providing feedback, especially negative feedback.

A feedback system in an organisation which focuses on negative / developmental ones will have following unique characteristics

  • Feedback will never become personal in the company

  • Ensure an open culture which focuses on issues and objectives rather than on personality

  • Creates a culture where people are open to highlight what’s not working and why not

  • People are comfortable in bringing bad news first rather than customers bringing in the same bad news

Its a mindset change for employees to a have culture of feedback mechanism where negative feedback is considered normal. How can HR bring this cultural change?

While designing the feedback mechanism, HR often ignores the fact that providing negative feedback is a mental torture, human beings by nature avoid providing negative feedback.

The HR function needs to imbibe this culture in a 2 step approach. The 1st step would be to prepare the stakeholders 'psychologically' - make them understand why it is important, the benefits and why it is tough to have this mechanism. The 2nd step would be to create support systems to make it 'executable' - training to all stakeholders on how to manage it, platforms to promote the culture, and finally implementation to sustain it.

The 1st Step involves an important step of making stakeholders understand and accept the so called 'reality' concepts: The 2 concepts which employees need to understand: 1. It is human nature to avoid providing negative feedback because they find it highly uncomfortable 2. It is the most sought & valued feedback by employees

Employees love to receive feedback especially negative feedback. Ironically, Managers avoid providing feedback; especially when it comes to negative feedback. Translating in simple terms, the message to both managers and employees is that there are natural tendencies which inhibits the transfer of negative feedback communication and hence they need to get involved to create & enable a communication channel.

The message to managers is "Employees love to receive negative feedback".

The message to employees is "Managers find it very tough to give negative feedback".

Hence onus is on both parties to break the mental communication gap.

Once this concept is acceptable (acceptable here means understood at DNA level) to both party (receiver and provider), it becomes easy for HR to implement the 2nd step. The 2nd part involves equipping all stakeholders on how to give and receive feedback and create culture / processes to sustain it. It starts with coaching supervisors / managers - training them on how to provide negative feedback effectively; extends with coaching employees - training them on how to receive negative feedback positively; and ends with coaching both parties on how to action on the negative feedback. The success of negative feedback depends on actions taken post the feedback session.

Matured organisations & HR functions have already realised the importance of negative feedback. The so-called 'developmental feedback' is an output of the same thought process. Many startup companies have imbibed providing negative feedback as part of organisational culture itself rather than creating a formal mechanism.

The best culture is where there is no formal mechanism for giving negative feedback. Do you have 1X1 setup with your child to give feedback or do you give feedback as and when required?

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