20 Ways to Give Negative Feedback

Growth always hurts. But, stagnation is death.

flowering cactus

Growth requires feedback.

Successful leaders are great at giving feedback.

Good intentions don’t compensate for poor execution when it comes to negative feedback. Done well, negative feedback is a gift. Done poorly, it devalues, demotivates, and discourages.


Successful feedback is turning on the lights.

Before feedback, there’s stumbling in darkness. But, clarity produces confidence after successful feedback. Confidence enables action.

20 Ways to Give Negative Feedback:

  1. Commit to connect with the recipient. Distance undermines positive impact. Sit on the same side of the table, for example.
  2. Know the career goals of recipients.
  3. Seek their welfare.
  4. Define wins clearly.
  5. Explain issues as behaviors that limit personal and organizational success.
  6. Tie negative behaviors and solutions to organizational values.
  7. Pursue encouragement more than correction.
  8. Build on strengths.
  9. Stick with one issue. More than one issue indicates you already failed in the past.
  10. Express issues in one or two sentences. The more you talk the worse it is.
  11. Have examples.
  12. Feel calm not angry.
  13. Speak directly and with kindness.
  14. Provide adequate time and privacy.
  15. Embrace the possibility you could be wrong.
  16. Avoid “but.” You’re doing a great job, BUT, is interpreted as, “I’m not doing a great job.”
  17. Focus on observable behaviors. Don’t interpret intentions or motivations.
  18. Collaborate on solutions and develop a path forward.
  19. Draw a line in the sand and start fresh.
  20. Follow-up with progress reports.

Optimism is essential when giving negative feedback.

Avoid giving feedback until you believe growth is possible. If growth isn’t possible, you’re on the path to terminate them or live with the problem.

Never ______ when giving negative feedback.

What’s the most important thing about giving negative feedback?