<B>Negative Feedback</B>

Custodia Cabanas. Professor at Instituto de Empresa

5 September 2005

Negative feedback is the name given to a message that conveys a negative response to the behaviour, character, sentiments or any other attributes of a person or to the effect that person has on others.

Questions to consider before providing negative feedback:

These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding to provide negative feedback:

1) How reliable is my information? In other words, how reliable is the diagnosis of the problem as I perceive it? Am I basing my conclusions on facts or on suppositions? Is the problem evident to everyone or just to me?
2) How important is the problem compared to the positive aspects of that person?
3) Who has caused the problem? Could I be to blame?
4) Is it my job to correct the problem and, if so, why? Is it hindering the work of others or is it something I don’t like and therefore it has become my problem?
5) What are my options for handling the problem?
6) What are the potential benefits and risks of each option and what probability is there of obtaining results?

Effectivness of feedback

Remember that the person receiving feedback may not agree with its message and that his/her negative reaction may be directly proportional to the damage dealt to his/her self-esteem. Consequently, be prepared for a negative reaction from the other person and the possibility of having to accept that you incorrectly diagnosed the situation. That will require a willingness to listen to the other's point of view without becoming defensive.

Some companies organize annual meetings to evaluate the performance of their employees. However, the degree to which feedback helps subordinates enhance their performance and achieve better results depends on the following:
1- Whether or not objectives--and the means for achieving them—were previously set unilaterally or in agreement with the employee.
2- Whether or not feedback has been provided systematically and in real time as defining events unfold, and whether you have proven willing to listen to your subordinate.
3- Whether or not the company has provided the guidance, training and supervision required to help the subordinate reach his/her objectives.
4- Whether or not the superior and his subordinate both prepare thoroughly for the meeting.
5- Whether or not the superior sets aside sufficient time for the meeting.

Errors to watch out for

The following errors are often made by the superior and should be avoided:

1- He/she doesn’t prepare properly for the meeting.
2- He/she focuses too much on the subordinate’s recent performance and fails to make a balanced assessment of the entire period under evaluation.
3- Too much emphasis is placed on failures and not enough attention is given to accomplishments. This often leads even the most diligent employees to believe they have been unfairly evaluated.
4- Attention is focused on the individual’s attitude (“you aren’t motivated enough") instead of on conduct (“you don’t visit clients enough”).
5- He/she treats all subordinates the same instead of adapting to the character of each one.

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