Criticising employees

Peninsula Team

January 13 2013

Giving feedback to an employee when they have done a good job is easy, employees are usually extremely receptive to praise and everybody likes to give good news.

Negative feedback can be a little more tricky to give but, actually, is more vital because employees who are not pulling their weight, or not performing to your standards, need to be addressed for the good of your business.

It’s therefore advisable to have a good feedback structure in place that provides for regular ongoing performance review, and constructive criticism where necessary, where employees know that their recent contribution to your company will be analysed.

This does not just have to be in the form of yearly appraisals – performance and contribution can vary so much over a 12 month period and it can be difficult to remember the employee’s input from 10 or 11 months ago so more regular meetings need to be organised. The balance must be drawn between regular contact and what could be perceived as ‘over management’ but this does not rule out contact on a weekly basis, for example, where you and the employee ‘touch base’ to review the week’s work and for you to point out what may have been done better. Some employers may find monthly meetings more productive but these can be interspersed with ad hoc chats when the necessity arises.

Regular contact avoids a build-up of negative feedback that the employee may feel overwhelmed by if they are confronted with it all at once, and gives them more chance to put things right one by one.

When giving negative feedback, try and find out why the employee acted in the way they did, or whether there was something external affecting the way they were working. It’s sometimes hard to separate home life from work life and employees can carry personal problems into the workplace which subsequently adversely affects their work. There may be a valid reason for their underperformance during a particular week and a considerate employer will give the employee a chance to explain what their problems might have been.

Make sure the employee knows what standards are expected of them before you criticise them for ‘not working hard enough’. If they are unaware of targets, or if they have not been told of the rule they have allegedly broken, then it seems unfair to pull them up about it.

Similarly, check training records to see whether an employee has had proper training on a new task that they have been given, for example, if they are underperforming. Refresher training may be required for some employees where initial training took place a long time ago and a reminder would bring them up to speed.

If your criticism is due to the results of failing physical performance of the employee, consider any additional support that you may have to provide to the employee which, when implemented, would increase productivity to normal. In cases where a disability is affecting performance, reasonable adjustments may well have to be made. Continued criticism coupled with failure to provide support and reasonable adjustments identified as necessary for the employee to perform the job may well lead to litigation from the employee.

For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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