What You Must Do Before Giving Negative Feedback

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Giving Negative Feedback

Giving negative feedback to anyone, especially a colleague at work can be so uncomfortable to the point where even highly educated professionals avoid it like the plague. Two primary reasons are because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we’re afraid of how they will react. Therefore, we do what’s comfortable – we just don’t say anything. As a result, we resort to gossip or complaining about someone behind their back.

However, when members of a healthcare team aren’t willing to give and receive negative feedback, their personal growth and the overall strength of the team decreases.

According to research conducted by Officevibe, a comprehensive team management company…

  • 82% of employees appreciate positive AND negative feedback
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least weekly
  • 40% of employees are disengaged when they get little to no feedback

Knowing how uncomfortable people are giving negative feedback yet how important it is for growth, is there a way to make it easier?

The key to creating a culture where feedback is embraced

Would you agree that people are more likely to accept negative feedback if they believe your intent is pure and good?

When I received negative feedback

When I started my company and built my first website, I was beyond excited. I felt like I was a real business owner because I HAD A WEBSITE!!! So, naturally, I invited my besties over for dinner and wine for the big reveal. As we ate and enjoyed our nice bottle of wine, I could barely contain my excitement. Finally the moment was there and I pulled out my laptop and presented MY website. Ta da!

As they both scrolled through the webpages, I stood behind them beaming like a new mom when someone is cooing over her baby.

Then, my bestie Dina stood up, put her hands on my shoulders and said these words:

“Renee. You know I love you and that I want nothing more than for you to be successful. I love you but I hate your website.”

I felt like I got punched in the gut.

And then she told me why she hated my “baby”.

She said, “You’re a speaker but I don’t see any pictures of you speaking. All I see are pictures of flowers, like you’re selling Home Interiors or candles. If you want to have a successful business as a professional speaker, then you need to make some changes to your website.”

After I was able to breathe again, I looked at my site through her eyes (oh. And my other bestie Kim concurred), I realized she was 100% right.

However, what enabled me to actually put my ego aside and consider her negative feedback was that I knew her intent was pure and good.  I knew she wanted nothing more than for me to be successful. Only then was I able to receive her feedback. Giving negative feedback to me was a gift.

I immediately contacted my web designer and we made the changes she suggested.

Human beings need to trust that your intent is pure and good BEFORE they will receive your feedback.

Key action when giving feedback

People will be more likely to accept feedback, positive or negative, under these 3 circumstances:

  • They believe your intent is pure and good (trust)
  • The feedback is specific (positive and negative)
  • Feedback is frequent and ongoing (not once a year)

When I was an educator working in a large hospital, I was responsible for equipping preceptors with the skills and tools they needed to effectively onboard new nurses. Let’s just say, we spent a lot of time talking about how to give feedback without it coming across as nitpicky, overly critical, or harsh. And, how to give feedback so that the orientee didn’t get defensive, which is the number one reason why people DON’T give feedback – it’s way too uncomfortable.

Always start with intent before giving negative feedback

“My intent is to help you become a successful nurse. How I define success is…I want you to become the type of nurse I want to work with at 2 am in a crisis situation or the type of nurse I want caring for my family. In order for me to do that – help you succeed here – I’m going to give you a lot of feedback. I’m going to tell you the good, the bad, and if I have to – the ugly. And I need you to be open to it.”

What you’re doing is giving them a heads up that they can expect feedback as “part of their onboarding” because your intent is pure and good – you really want them to be successful!

Then, every day you work together, at some point towards the end of your shift say, “Here is one thing you did really well today [and then give them a specific behavior]…here is one thing I want you to work on [be specific].

Feedback Example:

Did really well – “When the central monitor showed that Mr. Rossi had a drop in oxygen saturation, you immediately checked him, checked the probe, listened to his lungs, and checked his respiratory rate. You fully assessed him before you called the physician.”

Needs to work on – “I’d like you to work on how you give report. There were a few things you missed and then had to go back and add. It was a bit unorganized. This is something we can work on during our next shift. I have a few suggestions that will help.”

When you frame feedback in this way, it’s easier for the receiver to actually accept your feedback because it’s presented in an objective and “I want you to be successful” manner.

Cultivating a culture where continuous improvement through ongoing feedback becomes the norm is possible when leaders set the expectation up front that giving and receiving feedback isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s a requirement of the job. 


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