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Negative Feedback Essential for Business Growth

Oct. 12, 2022
As the cliché says, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize problems exist in the first place.

By Tim Robinson

Whether it comes from a former employee or a customer review, negative feedback about your business is not only hard to hear, it can dredge up crushing emotions that can cripple your productivity if you let it.

But, if taken as a learning experience, it’s also one of the most useful tools a company owner or manager can harness to improve all aspects of the business. As the cliché says, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize problems exist in the first place.

After placing the hurt feelings aside, the reality is that negative feedback is usually more insightful than positive feedback because it can help you analyze your weaknesses. Encouraging honest feedback from both current and past employees can help you keep your business on track to create a positive company culture.

Why Constructive Criticism Matters

Negative feedback gives you an accurate diagnosis of your team’s workspace health. It’s a reliable way to identify existing pain points and challenges and can protect against future problems if creatively addressed. Think of negative employee feedback as an opportunity to improve performance, productivity and company culture.

Workplace culture develops over time and can become destructive if issues are not acknowledged and corrected immediately. If you want to make sure your culture is developing in a positive way, you sometimes need negative feedback to correct the path and pave the way to growth.

Constructive criticism can be used to address significant issues by:

  • Assessing your company’s processes and performance to help you identify consistent pain points and bottlenecks.
  • Taking fair and appropriate action to help streamline and optimize performance throughout the company.
  • Acknowledging and accepting feedback to let employees know they can be honest.
  • Taking appropriate action in response to negative feedback to let your team know their feelings and opinions are valued.
  • Introducing new ideas and perspectives from employees that will benefit company culture and performance. 

Managing and Assessing

Asking employees for negative feedback can be done anonymously so that team members don’t feel that they may be punished and managers need to allow employees the time and space to participate.

But be forewarned: Negative feedback can often be difficult for owners and managers if they are not prepared to handle the honest criticism received within employee assessments. This is why a checklist of formulated procedures must be in place to receive these assessments.

You should begin by collecting frequent and detailed feedback from employees at all levels and all positions. Take full advantage of all the tools you have available from employee surveys and performance reviews to regular one-on-one meetings.

Some advice to follow:

  • Trust your team. Take negative feedback at face value. Don’t look for hidden motivations like laziness or envy.
  • Create channels for employees to raise concerns about job-related issues confidentially and at times outside of regular assessment periods.
  • Don’t punish employees for negative feedback.
  • Communicate with employees that their honest input is valued. Be open about how their feedback will be gathered and used and offer timelines for your response to their concerns.
  • Be transparent about your process for review and assessment of employee input. Let your employees know who’s involved, when and how you will respond, and the range of possible actions you might take.
  • Include team members from all levels and departments in the process.

Empathy and Authority

The best way to respond to negative feedback is to treat the assessment as a learning opportunity for you and your managers. Remind yourself that your employees are not making personal attacks—they are helping you see areas where you need improvement.

You need to be willing to reflect on these assessments and be willing to admit if your leadership is off course.

You can’t change a problem if you’re unaware of it or aren’t willing to accept that a problem exists.

Upon reflection and acceptance, creating a proposed solution is the final step in the process. If there are multiple viable options, identify them all and work with your team to ensure the solution is fair and manageable. Provide clear goals and measure results to see if your solutions are working.

Being able to address negative feedback with positive responses is the only way your business will grow and is often key to sustained employee motivation.

Benefits of Feedback

Finally, after performing the assessments, reviewing the feedback and developing paths to correct the problems, you will reap the rewards in accepting the changes that need to be made.

You can expect:

Enhanced creativity. Studies have shown that receiving constructive criticism often drives us to find creative solutions to get back on course.

The creation of trust. Once your employees see that you value their opinions and that they will not suffer retribution for their honesty, you create an atmosphere of trust among your team. This not only helps employees become more satisfied in their positions, it also gives them ownership.

Growth. When employees feel empowered, they invest more of themselves in a business’ outcome. Even if they aren’t a part of the overall decision-making process, their voices are still being heard.

If you want to know your company’s fault lines, sometimes the only way to find the truth is to conduct honest, fair and, yes, negative feedback. Just remember to assume good intentions, clarify expectations and goals and, above all else, don’t take it personally.

After all, correcting the mistakes helps your team become more motivated which helps your business grow.

Tim Robinson is the chief operating officer for WorkWave, where he plays a large role in ensuring the company is providing value to its customers and their businesses. He is a strong believer in driving a customer-centric culture and building great teams and products that meet the demands of WorkWave’s customers.

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