Give a negative feedback to a collaborator, without triggering World War 3

Give a negative feedback to a collaborator, without triggering World War 3

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It happens often that at work, one asks for your opinion on various issues: “what do you think about my financial goal presentation?”, “it’ll be cool to plan out the next seminar in this backwoods place right?” or even “these fluorescent t-shirts are too cool, we should add our logo and order a hundred for the entire team, what do you say? “. Of course, unless you’re the kind of person who says yes to everything (which we don’t recommend, harmful for everyone), it may happen that your opinion on a given question is negative, extremely negative. This is where negative feedback steps in.

 « Your idea is really f***** up” isn’t an acceptable response. You’ll need to be diplomatic while giving your negative feedback and remain constructive without offending your interlocutor. This isn’t an easy task. Of course, it is important to respect a few rules, while giving a negative feedback politely. Here they are:

Listen before speaking

Nothing more frustrating than someone who gives a negative feedback, without even taking the trouble to look/listen/understand the entire work and its context. Be attentive to what the person has to say, so that you have all the necessary information, to give a pertinent feedback. 

Give your negative feedback in private

Giving a negative feedback to a collaborator in front of other colleagues, is the best way to kill one’s self esteem. The other person will be hurt so he won’t be willing to listen to your remarks and will keep a bitter memory about this exchange. When you give a negative feedback to a colleague, do so privately and in the most discreet way possible. 

Moreover, don’t give a negative feedback via mail. Emails are often not properly understood. Do this in person and through good mood. 

Begin with a little compliment

Alright, this new project where one is asking for your opinion is really rubbish, but is everything 

Good for the trash? Surely not, there is definitely a positive aspect, something which actually isn’t so bad. You need to look for this little positive aspect like the Holy Grail and initiate your feedback, through this precise point. This way, your interlocutor will be more inclined in receiving your negative feedback, after having understood, that you too are capable of pinpointing positive aspects. 

Be productive, not counter-productive

A negative feedback shouldn’t be perceived as an attack by the person receiving your feedback. You shouldn’t just stick to saying what’s wrong: you need to also show that it’s possible adjusting tactics. 

For example, don’t say « Dude, your PowerPoint is looney, one doesn’t understand a thing and nobody has used WordArt since 2002…”. 

Favor « I understand what you wanted to say in this report, though I think it lacks some clarity, I would rather say it like this, what do you think? Plus, this writing font doesn’t really showcase your presentation, you should try out this typo, it’s great”. 

Don’t wait ages

When one asks you for a feedback on a work, don’t wait weeks before giving it. Your collaborators might lose patience and may not ask you for your opinion. They really admire you and your opinion matters to them. Don’t disappoint them. 

Negative feedbacks shouldn’t be the norm

Unless your collaborators really suck, don’t turn negative feedbacks into a habit. These should be in minority, compared to the positive feedbacks you make. People who always criticize quickly become unbearable. Moreover, the more you’re capable of making positive feedbacks (something you can do even when one doesn’t ask you, it increases your kindness capital but also trust from your colleagues), the more seriously your negative feedbacks will be taken. Be benevolent.

You need to be ready as well to accept negative feedbacks

Negative feedback can really allow you to improve performance and various projects. Deep down, it’s better to be honest with oneself and others. But if you really believe in the benefits of criticism (of course, when these are done in a constructive manner), you should be ready as well to receive negative feedbacks. Accept them willingly and encourage your collaborators in being honest with you, without getting infuriated at the slightest criticism.

More informations here 50 unique ways of rewarding your collaborators and making them happy


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