Whether you’re a new manager or a seasoned manager, giving someone negative feedback can be uncomfortable.


(1) Investigate

One of the first things I would do first when someone gives me feedback for my direct report is to investigate if that feedback is just someone’s opinion or feedback that is important to deliver.

One of the ways I would investigate is by inserting myself in meetings so I can observe the said behaviour. If I’m not able to observe that behaviour, another option is to collect 360 feedback from the team.

(2) Ask questions to understand from their perspective

Once I’ve investigated and collected enough context, I would prepare to deliver that feedback with my direct report.

An example of how this might play out with my direct report Joe (fictitious) may look like this:

“Hey Joe, I’ve observed a couple of times in meetings where you interrupted other team members and started assigning tasks to others without their input. Can you tell me more about that from your perspective?”

The reason why I’m asking him to tell me more is to allow him a chance to communicate his perspective of the situation and his intentions behind the actions. I try to assume others have positive intent and in trying to understand from their perspectives will allow them to understand I’m trying to help.

Joe may respond:

“I started assigning because I wanted to make sure the team is focused and we get things done quickly.”

(3) Explain the negative consequence of their behaviour

I may then respond:

“When you interrupt others and assign tasks to them without their input, that can erode their trust in you even though you have the best of intentions. Are you able to relate from their perspective?”

(4) Wait for insight

This is when I wait. Ideally, Joe would come to that realization. And if he’s not able to come to that realization, I will try to explain the situation in a different way until he understands.

If he doesn’t understand how his behaviour created the negative consequence, any further conversations to change that behaviour will be useless.

(5) Guide them on next steps

Let’s assume he realized the negative consequence of his behaviour, I would then ask:

“How would you approach this differently next time?”

This is where I’ll work with him to come up with different options to work with the team that will give them autonomy to choose their tasks but will also make him feel that the team stays focused.

The goal of your meeting is that your direct report should leave the meeting with the realization of the impact of their actions and specific things they can do to change their behaviour.

To really help them grow, I would attend the next few meetings to observe their behaviour and continue to provide feedback, especially positive ones. Positive reinforcement can be a great technique to help your team members grow.

Lastly, be patient. Behaviour change is not easy especially for team members who are used to behaving in a certain way and if this is the first time they’ve received feedback.


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash