Nobody likes negative feedback.

Employees hate receiving it because it can often feel like an attack not only upon their performance, but on their personality and character as well.

Managers hate giving it because they know that such a conversation is fraught with risks: everything from hurting the employee’s feelings to watching them walk out the door.

But as the custodian of your peoples careers, how do you deal with all the potential pitfalls that can occur while trying to correct an employee’s behavior?

I recommend a model we call C.H.A.N.G.E. It encompasses the facts that you must present to the employee, while not ignoring the all-important emotional elements that must be considered in any such conversation.

C.H.A.N.G.E. includes:

CH: CONCERN and HELP – When giving negative feedback to an employee, you need to communicate that their behavior is a matter of great concern to you and that you need the employee’s help. This is a strong opening because it not only lets the employee know that there is a situation for which he or she must take responsibility, but that the emotional burden of such a difficult conversation is shared – that you’re in this together.

A: ARTICULATE THE PROBLEM – Here, you lay out the problem in a “just the facts” way – telling the employee what he or she has done, and what the results have been. For instance, “Joan told us that the reason she quit was your command-and-control style” or, “your team is 20% behind on our performance indicators.” No moral judgments, but also no room to argue.

N: NOTE THE REACTION – Ask the employee for a reaction to these facts. If he or she accepts what you’ve said, there’s room to work on the problem; but if the reaction is extreme denial, give the employee a day or so to reflect. If he or she still won’t accept your feedback, you may have to consider termination.

G: GAIN AGREEMENT – Reach a mutual decision about the next step. This may include such solutions as sending the employee for a course on managerial styles or providing increased coaching. Whatever the potential remedy, it’s vital that you arrive at it together.

E: ENCOURAGE THE HEART– While the preceding three steps were about logic, “E” is all about emotion. You must encourage the employee, make clear that they’re not “damaged goods” and assure them that you strongly believe they can make the necessary changes and become the employee you know they can be.

1 Comment

  • Jon Windust says:

    I know this is a few years old, but it’s still a very relevant issue (and is clearly still attracting visitors given I stumbled across it today!).

    I really like your CHANGE model, but I’d include one fundamental that sits under the whole process: Research shows that there’s no such thing as valuable feedback from someone you don’t trust. If there’s no trust, the feedback gets ignored.

    As a result, before you launch into the feedback process, it’s worth checking in on the strength of your working relationship. There’s plenty as a managers you can do here to build a stronger working relationship – but it’s always worth understanding if this is the specific reason that your feedback isn’t being actioned.

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