My last web article presented 4 easy steps to giving positive feedback (if you want to be a superior supervisor).  I hope you have been recognizing the great work of your employees! BUT.  There is a flipside of positive feedback … not-so-positive feedback – a.k.a. constructive criticism or corrective.

Part of your role as a supervisor is to develop your employees.  How can you develop them if you aren’t challenging them to improve and/or grow?  You really can’t.  So, think of giving not-so-positive feedback as more than making your employees feel bad.  Think of it as offering them a chance to be spectacularly awesome.  Here is what to do:

Separate There is a difference between an employee and problem behavior.  (Just as there was between you and that naughty brother, sister, or cousin when you were growing up.)  Don’t lump them into one.  It isn’t fair and it isn’t helpful.  Depersonalize things by focusing on the behavior; not their personality.

“Cathy, I have noticed a recent change in productivity.” = YES

“Cathy, I have noticed your productivity is low.” = NO

Describe.  Just as you did when giving positive feedback, specifically describe what it is the employee did.  Telling the employee their work is “unacceptable” leaves too much to interpretation.

“I am concerned about the missed deadlines on three of the last five reports.” = YES

Your reports have been late.” = NO

Explain It is important for the employee to understand why their behavior is a problem or why it is holding them back.  Don’t stop at how the behavior negatively impacts the company; tell them how it negatively impacts them as well.  If possible, tie the impact back to company mission, professional goals, project objectives etc.

“Missed deadlines create stress and pressure on the departments who are waiting for information.  When others have to wait they might have less confidence in your work and I remember time management was a goal of yours after the last performance review.” = YES

“If you ever want a chance at a promotion you will need to step your game up.” = NO


Help.  If an employee doesn’t acknowledge the problem and take responsibility they will be highly unlikely to make changes.   Try to understand their “why” by allowing them to share their perspective.  Help them differentiate between reasons and excuses or blame.  Show support during the process so they can work through any guilt, embarrassment, frustration etc. they may experience.

“Does what I’m saying sound accurate to you?”  = YES

“Can you see how waiting could be frustrating for others?” = YES

“I don’t want to hear excuses; I just want you to sign off that we have had this discussion.” = NO

Develop Together Avoid turning them loose with a puzzled look on their face.  Goals for improvement should be developed together.  This is two-fold; clarifying your expectations and empowering the employee to own the action steps.

“Looking forward, let’s talk about how to turn out timely reports.” = YES

“What ideas do you have for turning out timely reports?” = YES

“What you need to do is …” = NO

Monitor.  Look for opportunities to give positive feedback.  The more you praise, the more positive behavior is perpetuated.

“Cathy!  You have got the last two reports in on time.  In fact, one report was a day early.  You are helping other departments meet their deadlines.  I hope you are proud of the improvements you are making.  Thanks for turning out the reports so quickly and I know everyone will appreciate it in the future as well.” = YES


“Nice work Cathy!” = NO (Review How to Give Positive Feedback in Only 4 Steps.)