How to give negative feedback to your employees

Positivity has become something of a cult the past few years. Like political correctness and the ‘#gratitude’ craze, it comes from a good place – but is meaningless if performed by rote, rather than discovered through respect and mindfulness.

Negativity is by no means a healthy attitude, but point-by-point identifying of negative trends within an atmosphere of constructive support can help to identify means of improvement that might be overlooked by those wary to dwell on failure or mistakes. If you have an employee who is underperforming or plain out of line, restricting yourself to positive discourse can severely limit your ability to address and rectify the problem. But how can you deliver negative feedback without overstepping the mark?

You can take some of the burden off your shoulders by opening a feedback session with a period of self-review. Giving your employee a voice will make them less likely to feel victimized by the remainder of the session. They may already be aware of the issue you want to confront, or they may unearth the issue or the reasons behind it when given free reign to talk about their performance. Heck, they might even confess to something you hadn’t picked up on!

It’s likely their self-review will not be in sync with your own opinion, but listen to their side of the story, and use questions rather than statements to try to get a better understanding where they’re coming from. Be prepared to change your opinion or your plan of action in response to what you learn. Hopefully, your air of dignified humility will rub off on your troubled colleague.

That said, you should enter the room with a plan – even if it might end up changing. Have specific examples of their mistakes available, and relate them to concrete work issues and statistics rather than on personality traits. Don’t fall back on the classic positive-negative-positive pattern unless you really have something positive to say. The idea of sandwiching negative feedback between positive comments is well-known today, and you will lose trust if you are not completely sincere in all your points.

Finish up your feedback with some direct modes of action. Targets, behaviors and techniques are all more powerful – and trackable – than “be better” or “work harder”. And before you go, ask for feedback on your feedback. Make sure that the reasons for your criticism have been understood, that your employee knows the path forward, and that they think you’ve been fair. This way you can leave them feeling empowered, make sure you’re not missing anything, and build on your feedback technique for next time.

These approaches are all most effective in a workplace that has a healthy feedback culture. Holding regular review sessions is a great way to check in with your staff and keep the dialogue open. If they understand that negative – but constructive – feedback is part and parcel of the workplace, and they are accustomed to giving and receiving it, the process will be much smoother when a serious problem arises.

Your first such meeting can be dedicated to sharing the art of feedback. In a healthy company, not only is nobody afraid to speak up, but each employee recognizes the value of their ideas and opinions on everyone else and the business as a whole. It can take a while for this atmosphere to flourish, so don’t rush it – start slowly, and build the process over the first few weeks. Hopefully your crew will come to value the empowerment that comes with shared responsibility, and to feel accountable to the team and not just the boss. Let them know the rules and make sure it’s a safe place for people to be honest about negative trends or incidents from which the group can learn. Arguments might occur, especially at first, but these can be healthy too – rather than stamping them out, try instead to arbitrate and help your colleagues to figure things out between them. This can truly strengthen your squad.

This new guide provides clear steps to establishing that culture of feedback, and ideas on how to handle those difficult moments when backhanded compliments are no longer cutting it and negative feedback is called for. Learn these ideas well, and your experience of negative feedback is likely to produce positive results.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Pexels

New Focus On Women In (Fintech) Start-ups

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

It is not just the stunning reversal of fortune for Hillary Clinton at the beginning of November which has stimulated a renewed interest in more diversity in the world of start-ups, and FinTech in particular. The conversation has been underway for quite some time.

Part of the drive for diversity, to be honest, is caused by a failure of women to rise to the top in most large businesses – including the financial services, banking or tech industries, despite a generation (at least) of trying. However, the focus on gender diversity remains, just about everywhere there is a budding FinTech start-up community. And a lot of the calls for diversity are coming from not “just” women, but men.

In Frankfurt Germany, this conversation is absolutely at the front and centre of just about every FinTech gathering right now. The Frankfurt “scene” is absolutely poised to break out on to the global stage, just because of the presence of so many highly educated, financially savvy people –from all over the world. But, as is painfully obvious, at gathering after gathering, except those ostensibly “for women”, the faces are mostly white, and with very few exceptions, all male.

As a result, there is an increasingly dedicated push to change that and for reasons that extend far beyond “political correctness”. This being Germany, there is a push to fill at least 30% of management boards with women as required by new German law that came into effect earlier in the year.

FinTech and Insuretech, in particular benefit hugely from the presence of women in senior positions for many reasons. The first is that the most successful companies in the sector succeed because they are able to define niche markets and reach them in new and often more efficient ways. While men are not incapable of figuring out how to do this, of course, having a different perspective, including unique experience and gender diversity along for the ride, is one way to succeed at this even better (no matter the community being targeted or service on offer). However, beyond service provision itself, the promise of encouraging more women to enter the FinTech industry is the new range of products their insights and experience have the potential to create. Even in the ostensibly “established” world of financial services and banking, the idea of a company (or companies) that provide services tailored to what women want is absolutely exciting. Beyond this, of course, is a wide range of products that interact with the consumer in different ways. Women play a huge role in helping to define the consumer experience – from the services themselves to how users interact with the interfaces.

As a result, there is actually no better time to be a woman in the world of start-ups. And the women who are, despite speaking and pitching to audiences still mostly made up of men , are also finding that for the first time there is a new acceptance and eager willingness to welcome them into the ranks of one of the most exciting industries on the planet right now.

You go girl!

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

(Image Source: Bridging the Gender Gap)

Political Correctness Killed the Republic

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Six months ago I predicted that Trump would most likely win the US election. The official opinion polls told the opposite story, that Hillary was the preferred candidate, but my reading of the situation was different.

It was mid-July, and I was attending a talk given by Elizabeth Economy, Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Economy gave a wonderful speech, and she shared her view that a Trump victory would be truly unthinkable. This was the consensus in the room. However, despite her convictions, and the pro-Hillary audience, Economy couldn’t help smiling broadly every time she mentioned Trump’s name.

This was extremely telling.

It has been said that emotion makes people act, and logical makes them think. Trump is a man who clearly knows how to connect with people’s emotions, while Hillary is woman with a lot of knowledge, experience and intellect.

And so, it occurred to me that if a thoughtful intellectual type who strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy was having trouble resisting his charm, brand, charisma, call it what you will, then what hope had everybody else?

What hope indeed.

Donald Trump is now president-elect of the United States of America.

Who is to blame?

No single person or event is to blame, perhaps, but I believe a culture of political correctness in the West is one of the causes that has contributed towards America’s current predicament.

Let me share a brief anecdote.

A few days before the US election I shared with friends on Facebook my view that both candidates were bad choices for president.

On the one hand, Donald Trump, a man who hurls abuse at Mexicans, Muslims and anyone who tries to challenge him, inspires fanatical devotion in his followers and, based on everything we know about his behaviour, given the opportunity Trump will not hesitate to make a show of strength or take steps to enhance his own power. A potentially dangerous temperament.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, an intelligent, hard-working and ambitious career politician who has survived and thrived in a broken political system by adopting a public and private persona, and at times appears to have placed pragmatism over principle (shown by her decision to accept donations to the Clinton Foundation from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, known funders of terrorism, while she was Secretary of State).

Wonderful! Two wonderful choices!

I didn’t want Trump to win, but both candidates had clear weaknesses, and I thought I had a right to comment.

Shortly after sharing these thoughts on Facebook, I deleted the post. I was under attack from a number of my pro-Hillary friends, and so I ducked for cover.

How dare I say anything negative about Hillary!!!???

How dare I indeed.

My feeling is that the political thought police are doing America and the West a grave dis-service and causing more harm than good.

What kind of societies do we want to live in?

Ones where people have to tip-toe around and only share their true thoughts in private or at the ballot box?

Or ones where ideas and issues are openly and candidly debated and discussed?

Hopefully you will agree that openness and debate are the best option.

But don’t just take my word for it. Have a listen to the wise and amusing words of Jonathan Pie (the satirical news reporter played by Tom Walker). Foul language warning! You might not want to play this if you are in the workplace, or if you are sensitive to the F-word.

(Image Source: Odyssey)