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Managing an Underperforming Employee


How to Give Effective Negative Feedback in the Workplace

Learn How to Provide Constructive Criticism That Encourages Positive Change

CURT NICKISCH: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Curt Nickisch. Feedback is information, and when it’s negative feedback about job performance, that’s a crux moment in the interaction between a manager and a subordinate. The employee might think they’re doing everything right, but the manager doesn’t see it that way, and ignoring it does no one any good; not the employee, not their supervisor.

Feedback is a tool to get back on the same page and moving in the same direction, but it can come as a surprise, and that employee might feel misunderstood or threatened, start disengaging and look for another job, and if it doesn’t come across effectively, the team and organization can suffer and miss their goals.

It’s why many managers often struggle with this moment. It’s a skill to give negative feedback in a way that is clear, and in a way that encourages positive behavior change, while still supporting your team member.

Our guest today is here with some recommendations. Jenny Fernandez is a team and executive coach, and she’s faculty at Columbia and NYU. She wrote the HBR article, How to Talk to an Employee Who Isn’t Meeting Expectations. Jenny, great to have you here.

JENNY FERNANDEZ: Thank you, Curt. It’s a pleasure to be here.

CURT NICKISCH: It seems like feedback should be something that managers are really trained on, and maybe get a lot of practice at, but in your work, it sounds like you found that that’s not really the case?

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