To some employees, no matter how constructive the feedback, they perceive it as negative. How can you convince feedback-phobic employees that you’re trying to help them? Share these strategies suggested by Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober’s article “Fear of Feedback,” in the Harvard Business Review:
- Look on the bright side. Deliver constructive criticism in a way that stresses the things they’re doing right and provides a blueprint for building on their success. If they start to fret about the negatives, help them reframe the information with the emphasis on the positive. For instance, “Yes, you have fallen behind on design, but you’re ahead of the curve on implementation.”
- Start with a spoonful. One reason people fail at their New Year’s resolutions is because they resolve to change too many things at once. Don’t provide a laundry list of undesirable behaviors, then leave employees to figure out where to start making improvements. Instead, work with them to set small, manageable goals.
- Never fear. If employees seem to think you’re picking on them, maybe it’s because they’re threatened by constructive criticism. Try to get them to open up about their fears. Are they afraid any negative feedback is a prelude to termination? Are they afraid they don’t have what it takes to live up to your expectations? Help them develop a more realistic and less alarmist view of the feedback process.
- Help is on the way. Employees sometimes resent feedback because they feel you’re asking the impossible and not providing the means to attain it. Encourage them to be honest about obstacles that might prevent them from improving, and make sure they know you’ll work with them to provide the support they need.
~Adapted from “Management training: How to overcome the seven most common pitfalls of coaching”