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Responding to Negative Employee Feedback

Being a manager is a wonderful job. You can help your employees learn and advance their careers, achieving great things.

It also means doing difficult things, like asking for feedback. While some people will only give you glowing reviews and heaps of praise and happiness, some might not be so joyous. Employees who feel overlooked, overworked, underappreciated and frustrated in general might be overly negative or harsh when asked for their opinions. Some people just hate everything. But others might have to work up the nerve to say even the slightest negative comment.

Negative feedback is important because it tells you what’s wrong and gives you the opportunity to fix a bad situation. It’s insight into what’s really happening in your company.

Someone who speaks up to draw attention to a bad situation might shed light on something you didn’t know before. It could be an unsafe working condition; it could be a harassment lawsuit in the works. You’re only one person and can’t be everywhere all the time; learning about problems gives you a chance to address them and make things right so people don’t want to leave.

Here’s how to handle the negative commentary and make it a positive.

Take time to consider your actions.

Your first impulse might be to jump into action, which is commendable, but it might not be the correct response. Depending on the complaint, you might need to gather more information before deciding how to proceed; it might also be wise to cool off a little before moving forward to correct a situation. Allowing the dust to settle will give you a chance to assess the situation and figure out the best solution.

Ask follow-up questions.

This is so important because it will help your employees feel heard and respected. Ask simple things, like how long a problem has been going on, what steps have been taken, if any, to try and fix the problem, whether other people feel the same way or have the same issue. This will give you a sense of how big a problem is or whether it’s just a misunderstanding. Then you’ll be able to proceed accordingly.

Fact check.

Privately, have conversations with other people in the same department or on the same team. Don’t name names, but see whether they agree that the complaint or concern raised is an issue. This will either confirm the situation or will offer more insight that it might be a conflict between two people, not a whole portion of your team. Your response to the issue might be very different as a result.

Have a second conversation.

Make a point to talk with the person who offered negative feedback at a later date, maybe a few weeks out from the initial conversation. This will buy some time to try and address their concerns while also letting them cool down a bit. At this point, reassess the situation and see if things are improving. If not, talk about possible solutions and help the employee feel like they’re part of the solution and that theirs is a voice worth listening to.

Overall, remember: your employees offering feedback is a great opportunity to learn more about your company, your team and how everything is working together, down in the weeds. It’s not personal, it’s just business, and fixing issues as they come up prevents little things from becoming big things.


Looking for additional staff support? Sterling Personnel has your back!

If you’re looking for additional advice on how to turn lemons into lemonade, or need to add to your team, call Sterling Personnel. We’re standing by and ready to help however needed to keep your company running smoothly and ready for another successful year. Call Sterling Personnel today and let’s get going.