On giving negative feedback

Let me relate a true incident. I was managing a team of software developers a few years back. I had heard a lot of dope on feedback and how a manager should give both positive and negative feedback to his or her team members to ensure that individuals grow in their job by addressing problems and working on their defects. It sounded very good in principle.

So, during the annual appraisal, I did a thorough exercise and came up with the positives and negatives of all my team members. During the discussion, I remember telling one of my team members that his technical ability needed a little brushing up. He did not show any signs of disagreement. A week later, I had his resignation in my inbox.

During the exit interview, I asked him the reason behind quitting. He did not mince words. He said he quit because I did not appreciate his technical ability.

From then, I have been careful with negative feedback. Most people, I feel, cannot take negative feedback the right way. Immediately they become defensive and try to justify to themselves on why that made no sense at all or worse, that the person giving the feedback actually had an axe to grind and loved putting him or her down.

It requires immense maturity to accept negative feedback and most people simply are not that mature.

How then do you handle this? I have a simple solution. Don't.

Desist from giving any negative feedback to such people. The reason is if you do give them negative feedback, they will anyway take it the wrong way. They are not going to work on their defects and try to correct themselves. Then, why bother?

As for me, when I get negative feedback, the way I react depends a lot on who is giving me the feedback and my mood at the time!


Karan Shah said…
hahaha.. I am one of those I guess!
Unknown said…
I agree with your solution. Negative feedback shouldn't be given to people who cannot take it in a right spirit.
Christopher Montray said…
I have been on the end of negative critisism. I did not mind as I knew I fell short in that area. But .. one can give negative comments in a positive way still making the person feel good about themselves.... food for thought.
Christopher suggestion is good - "one can give negative comments in a positive way still making the person feel good about themselves.... food for thought." - this is a feel good factor :)

When people hear of a negative feedback, it pushes them down first and ONLY the character/ attitude of the person can get them away from it and improve on it.
Anonymous said…
If there is something negative about the person that he/she absolutely needs to work on, in the interest of the company, then it has to be addressed with the person.

First of all begin with the positive feedback, and have no qualms singing in praise (if you truly beleive it). Once that is out of the way, bring the negative elements out in a non-hurting manner. Use phrases like "I take responsbility for us being in this situation", and "I take responsibility for getting us of this situation because the company has so much to gain if you can get BETTER at so and so". The tone and verbiage used can make the difference between make and break IMHO