Giving negative feedback can be an anxious experience for the person delivering the feedback. You aren't sure how someone will react, and this has an impact on how you deliver it.
Why is it so hard to receive negative feedback? We see our job as our identity, and therefore it feels like criticism of us as a person. We also see negative feedback as a threat to our survival (think fight or flight syndrome). This is because our mind reacts to a mental threat in the same way it would to a physical threat.
So how can we reframe negative feedback so that it's more constructive? Constructive feedback is the optimum way to deliver what can be perceived as negative feedback. Think about how you can inspire someone to change something, and this will almost certainly change how the feedback is delivered.
A high quality, motivating and constructive conversation would look like talking about where someone is at, where they need to be, and what excellence looks like. Discussing how your colleague can achieve each stage is really important.
Receiving constructive feedback instead of praise and recognition is key to helping people to develop and achieve their goals, instead of standing still.
Even with your top performing employees, it's important to have constructive feedback conversations. It won't demotivate them, it will help them to focus and continue to grow and develop.
When an employee receives negative feedback, they may feel defensive, doubtful or confused. To make this sort of conversation more comfortable and more engaging, consider the timing. Negative feedback shouldn't come as a surprise, so giving regular feedback is important.
Ensure that as a manager you go into the conversation with a growth mindset. This means that you believe that the employee is capable of learning from the feedback. You can start the conversation by saying you are offering feedback for improvement. Having a curious mindset and discussing what success looks like is helpful too. Using motivating language and open questions is useful.
Think about your body language and tone of voice when you deliver constructive feedback. Smiling, keeping your body language open and a gentle tone of voice can be helpful (even on zoom).
As a manager, it is helpful if you model a strong feedback culture. Show your vulnerability and ability to receive as well as give feedback across the organisation.
Constructive feedback is critical for motivation, performance and engagement. It will help with employee retention too.