It’s never easy to give employees negative feedback – soften the blow by making your criticism constructive.
Most people are uncomfortable with having to dish out criticism. “It’s often seen as a personal attack, which could damage an individual’s self worth and productivity considerably,” says Sonia Joubert, a registered psychologist, life coach and founder of “Very often, criticism has a greater impact in the workplace than encouragement. It should be the other way round and criticism should be dealt with in the most diplomatic way. The result of this is lowered productivity and perhaps a lowered experience of status, fairness, relatedness and general commitment in the employee.”

The value of constructive criticism

Rakhi Beekrum, a counselling psychologist at Ethekwini Hospital in Durban, says that “while the notion of criticism is regarded as being negative, constructive criticism is aimed at improvement – be it of your quality of work, attitude or behaviour. When given in an appropriate manner, constructive criticism can lead to increased productivity in the workplace.”

Guidelines on giving employees negative feedback

“It’s extremely valuable for employees to be given clear guidelines detailing their job responsibilities,” says Beekrum. “If this is put into place at the outset, then it is gives the employer a baseline to compare the expectations with the actual performance. Employers should also give positive feedback to employees when necessary – if this is done, then employees are more likely to welcome constructive criticism.”

In order for your criticism to be constructive and not demeaning, Joubert says you should take the following steps:
– Make sure that when criticism is given, it’s done as a suggestion rather than an outright, negative demand that could break down the individual.
– Try building your employee up at the same time, without being passive or flattering, by focusing on their strengths.
– Ask questions rather than making accusations, like: “How might we avoid this in future?” rather than “You have failed to…”
– Without anger, explain the consequences of their actions and the effect this has had on your organisation.
– Show confidence that the specific problem can be resolved if you work together and that there are sufficient structures in place to assist the employee.
– Never criticise or confront your employee in front of others. It’s a private matter and needs to be handled as such.
– Get feedback from your employee ensuring that every possible opportunity was given to them to do their work in the best possible way – if not, this may have resulted in their tardy behaviour.
– Be neutral and willing to consider their perspective of the situation. From there, you can work together to resolve the matter at hand.

This article was compiled by Sonja Raath and published on on the 11 April 2011.
The pic was sourced from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.