Merge's Blog

When giving negative feedback, weigh the tradeoffs

WeighscaleAs a leader, one of your more challenging tasks is to give negative feedback to an employee.  And there’s an art to doing it effectively; after all, your goal is to get a desired behaviour change, not to frustrate or de-motivate your employee.  In the past I’ve offered specific advice on how to give negative feedback (see links below), but today I want to step back and ask you to consider whether the feedback is even necessary.  It is always worth your while to weigh the tradeoffs before you have a conversation with the transgressing employee.

Ask yourself: is it important?  Is the offending behaviour affecting productivity or outcomes?  Or is it just an irritation? If in the final analysis, the problem is inconsequential then it may actually be a better idea to keep the feedback to yourself rather than run the risk of putting an employee in a bad mood.  Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.  Let’s say one of your employees has a messy desk.  It drives you crazy because you are a naturally tidy person, but he seems to work well in the chaos.  And as far as you can tell, there is no confidential information that is being compromised.  If you weigh the tradeoffs before making a decision to bring this issue up with your employee, you might actually decide to let this issue go.

Well, what do you think?  I know that this doesn’t sit well with some of you, so c’mon, have your say by clicking on the Comment link below.

Oh yeah, and here are the links to some previous blog posts I’ve written on how to give negative feedback:


  • There are so many executive Directors who need effective leadership skills and lack the respect of individuals/
    Giving feedback never has to be negative when one knows how to treat people and their behaviors…the focus needs to be finding a solution together..when people who are in the position of power respect employees and welcome collaborative solution finding, it is in the best interest of both parties.Please find a way to educate leaders at CMHA there is a great need for good leadership/

  • Janyse, thanks for your thoughts about the importance of intention when giving feedback. I agree that the focus needs to be on making things better, not on berating an individual.

    It sounds like you work in a place where the leaders have not mastered this skill. As much as I would like to create a world of nothing but exceptional leaders, the reality is that I can only help those who are open-minded and willing to learn. Every so often, I come across managers or supervisors who already know it all, and who (in their minds) think that they are amazing. Their staff of course tell a different story. My point is that nothing that I could say or do would change them. Change only happens when one is willing to do so.

    If you are in a position to do so, perhaps you may have some success in periodically suggesting that they join our leadership community here on my blog, or sign up for my monthly Mega Minute. Even that might be a step in the right direction.

    Good luck!


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