How to Give Negative Feedback

how to give negative feedback

Negative feedback isn’t typically a comfortable subject for anyone involved in the conversation. We’ve talked about what you should do after you receive negative feedback, but what if you’re on the giving side instead? How do you give negative feedback to someone you work with without creating a divisive environment?

Whether you are giving the feedback to an employee, co-worker, or boss, it isn’t always easy. People may become defensive or upset, especially if they are receiving the already-bad feedback in a negative way. So, it’s important to offer the negative feedback in a constructive and helpful way. After all, you’re giving them the feedback to help them improve, not to tear them down. Here are six tips on how to give negative feedback.

Have the Conversation in Person

Do your best not to give negative feedback over email or video chat when possible. It’s best for both of you to have a conversation face to face so you can limit misinterpretations of tone and body language. Having in-person conversation also best enables the receiver to ask questions and get any clarification they may need.

Start with the Positive

Never open the feedback with something negative because your opening remarks set the tone for the rest of the conversation. You want the person receiving feedback to feel comfortable and trusting, so start off with a few things that they are doing well. Let them know their strengths and try to give more positive comments than negative ones to continue encouraging them.

Give it in Real Time

If you are giving someone negative feedback, it will be most constructive if you do it right away or shortly thereafter the incident occured. Both of you will have a better understanding of what happened, and the receiver can start improving immediately. Additionally, this allows them to focus on one thing at a time, rather than swallow all of the feedback for the past few months at once.


Don’t just throw negative feedback at someone without letting them talk about it. They may have done something unintentionally or they may be going through something at the time. You should listen to and consider what they have to say about their actions. The most effective feedback comes from a conversation about what happened, not a laundry list of what someone did wrong.

Coach Next Steps

When you give negative feedback, help them with the improvement. They may not know what steps to take next, especially if they didn’t realize that they were doing something wrong. As soon as you give the feedback, offer tips and resources for possible next steps. Don’t leave them wondering about what they should do, and let them know that they do not have to handle it alone. The most effective leaders will guide them through their improvement and stand by their side.

End on a Positive Note

Just as the your opening remarks will set the tone for the conversation, your closing remarks will set the tone for the follow-up. If you end it negatively, chances are that the person receiving the feedback will leave the conversation feeling negative. However, if you leave it positively, they will likely leave the conversation on a positive note. You want them to look back on the conversation as a good thing that will ultimately help them improve, so address another strength after you go over your constructive criticism.


Next time you have to give negative feedback, make sure you give it in a positive light. Negative feedback can be a difficult subject to approach with someone, but offering the honest feedback is the best way to help those around you grow and improve. When you find yourself having to give some not-so-great feedback, use these tips to help guide you.