logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo logo
star Bookmark: Tag Tag Tag Tag Tag
Australia

Giving negative feedback… negatively

Many managers, faced with a need to give negative feedback, start to panic. Worried they’ll be hated, and scared of a potential confrontation, they often avoid the conversation, hoping the problem will go away. If only they knew what they should really be worried about isn’t the employee’s emotion or reaction but the meeting’s ineffectiveness. Negative feedback delivered negatively, as it were.

Staff can respond to negative feedback with a feeling of injustice if the broader workplace situation isn't recognised.

Staff can respond to negative feedback with a feeling of injustice if the broader workplace situation isn't recognised.

“Giving performance feedback to employees is a high-stakes supervisory responsibility,” write Assistant Professor Soosan Latham and Mahbubul Alam in a soon-to-be-published analysis in the Organisational Dynamics journal. “Negative feedback may be viewed as unfair and as such generate negative emotions including disappointment, frustration and anger.”

The reason for that perceived unfairness, according to the scholars’ research, is that there are factors beyond an employee’s control that affect performance. These include the work environment, operational matters and interpersonal relationships. The problem, though, is that managers don’t take those factors into account when informing employees they’re not meeting standards, thereby leading them to “experience debilitating emotions and feelings of injustice”.

Sometimes the issue is the way the feedback is delivered. One participant, for example, succinctly stated: “I did not get a chance to explain myself.”

At other times, it’s not so much the manner with which the manager raises the performance issue but more so the manager’s judgement in the first place. If they themselves don’t have sufficient skills or relevant experience, their credibility as an evaluator of the employee’s work is diminished.

Loading

Then again, it’s not always the fault of the supervisor. It can also be the fault of the colleagues, as per this situation:

“Many of [my co-workers] wanted to be promoted for the position I was hired for. Some of them may have badmouthed me to my supervisor.”

A couple of points to note in that comment. The first is the word “may”, which implies it’s a hunch. The respondent has simply assumed his colleagues are jealous and that they’re spreading rumours. His assumption may be incorrect.

But let’s make an assumption of our own by assuming what he’s saying is true, in which case he’s experienced a type of bullying commonly known as workplace mobbing, which is when it’s not just one person ganging up on another but a whole group of people getting involved. It’s clearly the antithesis of occupational health and safety, not to mention work engagement.

The organisation, too, can be culpable, especially when systems set people up to fail. In one employee’s case, it led to sentiments of career regret: “The new company I joined was so disorganised that no matter how hard I worked I was never able to improve my performance unless the company could straighten out the processes. I realised that it was a mistake to leave my previous job.”

Negative feedback may be viewed as unfair and as such generate negative emotions including disappointment, frustration and anger.

Assistant Professor Soosan Latham and Mahbubul Alam.

You can probably imagine the consequences that ensued as a result of being given what’s perceived to be illegitimate feedback. The participants in the study, conducted at York University, reported impacts on their emotions – “I was so angry that I could not control my temper” – as well as their personal life, wellbeing, reputation and future, leaving them with a sense of hopelessness.

Poorly delivered feedback could leave employees searching for another job, instead of improving, new research suggests.

Poorly delivered feedback could leave employees searching for another job, instead of improving, new research suggests. Credit:Jessica Shapiro

For instance: “I realised that possibly after this evaluation I will be stuck in my present position ... I felt very bad!”

As such, employees ignored the feedback, forgot all about it, searched for new employment, or gave up on improving their performance. Only on rare occasions did they act on it. Those occasions, rather than being rare could have actually been most, if only the employees had been provided with sufficient resources, clear instructions, attainable goals and solid training. You know, a manager’s job.

All rights and copyright belongs to author:
Themes
ICO