Recruitment | Executive Search

Giving feedback to a defensive employee

Feedback is one of the most powerful tools in a manager’s toolkit for strengthening workplace performance. Every manager realizes that giving feedback is crucial to assess an employee’s performance and motivate them to work better. However, giving feedback to a defensive employee can give you a hard time unless you implement the right strategy. So how do you get ready to give constructive feedback to someone who might cry, yell, or get defensive? Here are 4 tips on how to give constructive feedback to a defensive employee.

Get your emotions under control

You don’t want to critique someone else’s actions when you are angry or upset. If tempers are hot, take the time to let things cool down before giving feedback. While effective, constructive feedback is delivered as close to the observed incident as possible, if the situation is heated, it is fine to schedule a meeting for the next day.

Make it a discussion

No one fancies the idea of going in a meeting with a manager and getting all the blame and being intimidated because of their list of mistakes at work. Giving feedback to a defensive employee should be more like a friendly discussion where you should let the employee to share their opinions regarding the issue on hand. Remember, feedback’s a gift in one of two ways: Either it helps the person fix the problem or it helps to fix your misperception of the problem.

Emphasize your intention to be helpful

When giving feedback, your goal is to demonstrate that you are on the person’s side. Try saying something like, “I want to help you improve,” or share a story about a time when you made a similar mistake and somebody’s feedback helped you fix the problem. Choose wording that feels authentic, and make sure your mindset going into the conversation really is focused on being helpful.

Show genuine appreciation

There may be a lot of things that you want to criticize regarding an employee’s performance or work quality. However, you do not have to let everything out all at once. Instead, you should try to provide balanced feedback. You can appreciate things the employee has done for the company, even if it’s something small. This strategy will help show that you supervise every detail comprehensively and not just focus on the mistakes.

Giving feedback to a defensive employee is hard. Criticism often stings in the moment, and there’s simply no way around that. Emotional reactions can put us on opposite sides of the table with the other person, but by focusing on good intentions, preparing with integrity, and calmly and effectively responding in the moment, we can move to the same side of the table and help the other person grow.

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