Take your feedback and shove it!
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I think whenever I get negative feedback from people that never ever give me positive feedback.
Don’t get me wrong: I love feedback. The positive, the negative and the down right ugly. There is no progress without feedback, so I not only want it, I demand it! Long live 360 evaluations and weekly 1 to 1s.
But if you are never ever going to give me the positive stuff, if you are not willing to point at something I’ve done and say “that really worked! You miracle worker, you…” or “hey! really good presentation! It really resonated because…” or “you were right about that thing” or simply “good job with that”, then really don’t bother with the negative stuff, because after receiving only negative feedback for a while, I just don’t care what you think.
Maybe you have seen Whiplash too many times and you buy that “good job” are the two most harmful words in the english language. But you are not Fletcher, dear manager. You are not trying to train the new Bird. You are trying to run an organization, hopefully one that goes on to achieve whatever you are aiming for. If you limit yourself to providing just the negative feedback, one of three things (and sometimes all of them) usually happen with folks:
- they start losing their self-confidence
- they don’t feel valued
- they burn out and, eventually, move on
People in your organization need to grow in a healthy, motivating way, so that they are willing to stick around for a long time, so that they progressively get better and readier to deal with the also progressively heftier challenges your organization will undoubtedly face.
And I’m not talking about hiding negative feedback between chunks of good feedback with the infamous feedback sandwich; you can give it to me straight. But only as long as I know that, whenever I get things right, you will also (or at least, sometimes) point them out.
Here is the secret: if you want to be able to provide negative feedback in a constructive way, you need to earn it.
And you earn it by establishing a relationship of trust and respect with that person. They need to know that, beyond whatever your personal agenda and alongside with whatever’s best for the company, you also have their best interest at heart. They need to know you are looking out for them as well as for the company; that what you tell them will not just be good for the company, it will make them better too.
And no one can feel that unless you tell them BOTH the positive and the negative.
So be honest, manager. Be authentic! Go out of your way to praise someone if you believe they have done something right. You’ll positive-reinforce the hell out of their behavior and in the process, you will not only earn the right to point out those things that they can do better, you will ensure that it will be listened to intently and acted on swiftly when you do.