One of the most difficult things to get employees to do is to accept criticism. Some get defensive. Some avoid it like the plague and even go to wild lengths like call in sick during the day of their performance review! The rest would most likely nod their heads in agreement, promise they will change, but then would keep on doing things in the same old way.
Hard to accept as it is, some employees just do not know how to get feedback, advice, or whatever else management wants to lay upon them. When it comes to not so positive responses, it’s one of the trickiest things in the book. And if you are the one to share it, it will be difficult on your part as well – they may or may not take it to heart.
Why is this the case? What makes employees so resistant to feedback? Guess what – sometimes it’s partly our fault too! Management often makes mistakes like these:
- Only giving negative feedback
- Criticizing performance and behavior without giving suggestions for improvement
- Sharing negative feedback in public
This isn’t always the case, though. Other times, it is on the employee – they can be resistive or would even dodge you. If that happens, how do you get him or her to accept your feedback?
What to Do
While there is no one size fits all solution, you can use these tips to get your employee to become less defensive and more receptive to improving his or her behavior in the workplace:
1. Explain the Importance of Receiving and Accepting Feedback
Chances are, your employee might not even realize that part of their job is to receive and listen to constructive criticism, which is also to be followed by adjusting their behavior accordingly. Explain to them clearly the impact their resistance to feedback has not just on themselves, but also on their team, and the company, and how it can affect his or her job security.
2. Take a Break from Giving Performance Feedback
If you have been trying time and again to give feedback, but to no avail, take a step back. There is a bigger reason an employee tunes you out, and to get to the bottom of this you will have to take a different approach. Rather than commenting on his or her performance, why not bring up how he or she actually processes such feedback? It’s highly possible they are unaware of their behavior.
3. Stay Open-Minded but Neutral
Always remember that you are still in the workplace – stay as professional and calm as you can, and do your best to not create snap decisions. Save the interpretation and judgement for later, after you get his or her input. Of course, do not point out that they are being defensive, as that would only make them bring their defenses up even higher.
4. Be Concise and Specific
Everyone can easily accept positive feedback, but that warmth quickly goes away once you get to the not so positive criticisms. Yes, it is tough to share negative feedback, but when you do, make sure to be concise but specific. It’s one thing to say something analytical, but it’s an entirely different thing to support that point.
Rather than saying something vague like, “You’re not doing your job as well as you should,” you could be more precise. Lines like “When you cross your arms and look away whenever I try to discuss an issue with you, I get the impression you don’t care about the work we do. Can you please help me understand this behavior?”
5. Create and Agree On a Plan
Whenever you point out improper behavior and request a change in that employee, be open and ready for counter-offers. Agree on a goal and then get a commitment from them. Something along the lines of “Next time I have some constructive feedback for you and you believe in a different perspective, let me know. I will listen to your side so we can work on a plan together. Will that work for you?”
While You Are at It…
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