If there is one aspect of being in a leadership position that is perhaps the most unenviable, it is the seeming inevitability of having to provide criticism for an employee. Almost everyone in a management position has, at one time or another, been on the receiving end of criticism from a superior, meaning that they know well the usefulness of well-meaning critique and how powerful a motivating tool it is.
If you want to be the best leader possible without feeling like you are perceived in a negative sense as a boss, consider these useful suggestions.
Address problems in a timely fashion
In his article 10 Smart Rules for Giving Negative Feedback, Inc.com Contributing Editor Geoffrey James writes that letting issues add up in a stockpile to be addressed at a later point in time is a less effective method of offering critique than simply discussing employee issues as they happen. Say, for example, that an employee has a rough month that includes issues with regards to productivity, tardiness and attitude; touching on all of these issues in one meeting, weeks after the fact, can feel like dog-piling, which may have the inverse effect of gently addressing problems as they occur.
At the same time, Charlie Harary, Senior Director of Capital Markets for RXR Realty, writes for Entrepreneur.com that it is also important not to provide negative feedback in the heat of a moment. Immediately leveling criticism at an employee after a customer call or a high-stress activity is not nearly as effective as waiting a bit be it a few hours for the end of the day or until the start of the next days business to discuss a problem after tensions have died down.
Dont skimp on positivity
Constructive feedback, as author Marty Brounstein writes in the book Coaching and Mentoring for Dummies, is not simply offering criticism in the wake of a negative action. It must also encompass praise given to employees after something positive transpires in or around the work place.
To effectively offer positive feedback, Brounstein recommends expressions of appreciation for specific actions youve observed. If an employee steps up while another is out sick or takes initiative to solve a problem, offer them thanks for those actions. The more you proffer positivity, the more likely your employees are to reciprocate with loyalty and hard work.
Brounstein also suggests that the way you offer feedback is important to the way that the message is received. In instances where you have to provide negative feedback, it is recommended that you take a tone of concern as opposed to one of anger or disappointment as it communicates a sense of importance and care and provides the appropriate level of sincerity to the message.
In accordance to this point, Harary notes that feedback should focus on an action and not an individual. Taking the onus off of an individuals overall capabilities and placing it onto an individually-observed action creates distance that helps the employee not take the criticism on as a personal failing any more than they have to. To ensure evenness in approach, positive feedback should also focus on positive actions rather than positive aspects of the individual.
Because tone is so important, Brounstein and James both suggest offering negative feedback in person whenever possible. While it is more acceptable to provide feedback over the phone, doing so over email creates the possibility of misinterpretation where speaking clearly and plainly does not.
As a leader, you will need to provide feedbackboth positive and negativein order to ensure that your employees are working efficiently and effectively. So long as you know how to do so properly, it does not have to be a conversation that leaves you feeling uncomfortable or ill-equipped.