Farm Progress

5 tips for giving an employee negative feedback

Hint: Start and end with a positive comment – in person.

Kristine Penning

July 6, 2018

3 Min Read

Sharing constructive feedback is no easy task. It can cause uncomfortable feelings on both ends. There is certainly a level of tact that giving feedback requires to both encourage and build your employees without hurting or angering them and making matters worse. Follow this “sandwich” method to deliver negative feedback to an employee for the best results.

  1. Give Feedback in person, not over email or text - As someone who has been on the receiving end of this, I can’t stress enough how much better your feedback will be received if it’s given in person. As nice as you can be over email, your message is often more likely to be misconstrued without the tone of voice and the facial expressions to accompany it. This is especially true of today’s younger generation, who often use emojis and exclamation points in their text conversations. Personal interaction will go much farther and be more effective. Email also lends itself to saying something you wouldn’t say if you were in front of your subordinate. Keep relations positive and speak face-to-face.

  2. Start with the Positive(s) - You don’t have to be buttery to go into a conversation about negative feedback, but it is best to buffer it with something positive. Start the conversation with something you’ve been pleased with in their work. Explain what was done right. If there’s nothing you can think of (which might be why you’re having this conversation in the first place), ask how their day is going or how their weekend was. Just be friendly and ease into the conversation. There might be something affecting their performance you don’t know about.

  3. Be Constructive - This should go without saying, but be kind. Be tactful in how you choose your words. Keep it short and to the point. You can do this while still being honest and firm. Once you deliver your feedback, whether it be on performance or on a project or task done unsatisfactorily, explain how it could have been done better or how you would like to see them improve. No one benefits from poor feedback if not told how to do better.

  4. Listen - Let your employee tell their side of the story and see if there is anything you can do on your end to improve matters. There may be a reason out of their control for why their work is suffering. Uncover the root of the problem by having an open discussion.

  5. Leave with a Positive - If the feedback is around a simple task or project done poorly, explain that you have been pleased with their other work. If the feedback is around their performance, explain that you believe they have the potential and drive to do better work. Explain what you would like to see. Don’t leave with a warning unless you’ve had this discussion once before

A Few Final Thoughts - Sometimes delivering poor feedback or having a difficult conversation is better done in more level setting.

  • Don’t invite them into your office but rather come into theirs. Or have the conversation over lunch or coffee. The less intimidated or uncomfortable your employee feels the better.

  • Don’t deliver negative feedback with anyone else present unless you feel you need other management there. This only serves to embarrass and humiliate your employee which likely won’t improve anything.

  • Never use feedback to vent. Also beware of stockpiling feedback. This is what performance reviews tend to be like, but if there is negative feedback that should be shared in the moment, share it. Don’t save it for later to make things worse.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

Kristine Penning

Creative Marketing Specialist,

Kristine Penning works as Creative Marketing Specialist for, the leading talent solutions provider in the agricultural industry. She resides in Central Iowa and farms with her husband Reece. Reach her at [email protected]

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