How to Deliver Negative Critique to an Employee


As a manager, you will one day find yourself in a position where you have to give negative critique or feedback to an employee. You may have an employee you find questionable, or you may have a really great employee you’d like to retain but that you need to help improve. Either way, delivering negative feedback always needs to be done delicately so as to not offend or cause drama – especially if you’re talking to an employee you can’t afford to lose.

Talk to Your Employee Privately

Unless there’s some sort of dire emergency, there is usually no reason to give negative feedback publicly. If it isn’t urgent, set up a meeting time to discuss your issues. If the matter needs to be discussed immediately, find an empty office or conference room where you can talk.

Focus on the Problem, Not the Person

It is certainly possible to have a good (or bad) employee you happen to not like as a person. For this reason, it is important to focus on the actual problem, not the person himself.  For example – you have a fast-working young employee who works so fast it causes him to make mistakes, but he’s otherwise brilliant. His ability to work quickly and efficiently has made him a bit cocky. A meeting where you focus on the process and lay out the statistics, focusing on the times he does better work but not focusing on his cocky attitude, will give him the opportunity to assess his performance and slow down. You might have an employee who does awesome work, but when you look at to track his hours you see he consistently clocks in a few minutes late. This can be addressed as a specific issue.

Limit Negativity

There is a difference between having a personal preference and actually needing to give negative feedback. If a person is getting his job done well, but it’s just not the way you would do it, you should consider laying off. If there’s an actual problem, call a meeting. No one will enjoy working with you if you are always negative. Choose your battles wisely.

Always Give Negative Feedback in Person

In today’s technological age, it’s really easy to hide behind email messages. If you really want your messages to be received properly, do NOT email it. As stated above, call a meeting and do it in person. You run a better chance of having your message received positively; and you’ll definitely minimize the odds of the message being misconstrued and upsetting the recipient.

Share Positive Feedback

Uh, contradiction, right? Wrong. Make sure you share some of the positive things your employee is doing so that he doesn’t walk away thinking you’re upset with him, hate him, or that he’s got one foot out the door. Make it clear that you’re happy, overall, with his performance. Focus on fixing the things that need adjusting so that you can all move forward on a positive note.

It’s not easy to give negative critique in any environment. But if you want to retain good employees, you have to use caution and care.

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