40+ Negative Employee Feedback Examples to Deliver Constructive Criticism with Clarity
It's never easy to deliver negative feedback in a performance review, but it's an integral part of helping your employees grow.
92% of HBR survey respondents believe "negative (or 'redirecting') feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance."
That said, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
Simply put, your goal should be to deliver effective feedback that is both
- and diplomatic.
➖ What is negative feedback?
Negative feedback overlaps with constructive feedback in that it's not focused on accomplishments so much as on identifying areas for improvement.
There's an art to both delivering and receiving negative feedback.
But without harmony in this exchange, it can lead to bad feelings and even cause someone to quit their job. In this employee feedback statistics roundup, Gallup reports that only 10.4% of employees felt engaged after receiving negative feedback on the job.
Worse still, 4 out of 5 employees look for a new job elsewhere due to negative feelings following managerial feedback.
🕵️ What is negativity bias, and why does it matter?
Negativity bias in psychology refers to our tendency to give more weight to negative information than positive information. In other words, we're more likely to remember our failures than our accomplishments.
This tendency can significantly impact how employees perceive and react to feedback.
For example, if you receive 10 pieces of feedback and 9 of them are positive, but 1 is negative, the negative feedback is likely to have a much stronger impact on you than the positive feedback.
Leaders must be aware of negativity bias and make a conscious effort to counter it to ensure morale remains high. Your aim should be to deliver a balanced mix of positive and negative feedback.
💬 40 Negative employee feedback example phrases
Ready to dish out some constructive criticism and redirect your team towards better behavior? We've divided negative feedback example phrases into 7 main categories to make it easy to work these into your performance reviews. Check out phrases in the following categories:
Communication skills are essential in every work environment.
Effective communication skills are integral to maintaining healthy relationships, whether communicating with colleagues, customers, or friends. Well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20-25%, and 97% of employees report that communication impacts their task executions on a daily basis.
Here are some negative feedback example phrases that you can use:
- I've noticed some of our quieter team members don't have the chance to speak in meetings. Please make an effort to ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute."
- "I noticed that you interrupted X during their presentation. In the future, please, can you wait until they're finished speaking before you jump in?"
- "It's really important you keep in touch with progress updates. CC'ing me on emails would be a great way to do that."
- "I would find it helpful if you could provide more context when giving updates. That way, I can understand the situation better and provide better feedback."
- "When you're giving presentations, please try to make eye contact with the audience. I know it can be daunting, but it really helps engage with the listeners."
Interpersonal skills are the soft skills we use to interact with others.
They include active listening, empathy, and social skills. If you're giving feedback to an employee about their interpersonal skills, here are some negative feedback example phrases to use:
- "Some of our new hires haven't had the chance to get to know you yet. Please take some time to introduce yourself and get to know them better."
- "I noticed you seemed a bit frustrated with X during yesterday's team lunch. In the future, perhaps try to keep your tone more even."
- "I know you're passionate about your work, but sometimes it comes across as aggressive. I'd like to see you tone it down a bit."
- "I know you're under a lot of pressure, but it's important to take breaks when you need them. In the future, if you're feeling overwhelmed, please let me know, and we can work on a plan to help you manage your workload."
- "I know it can be difficult to hear criticism, but it's important to try to take it on board. Try to be more open to feedback conversations. They'll help you grow individually, and it's also important for our team performance."
Being able to identify and solve problems effectively helps keep the business's wheels well-oiled and running smoothly.
In fact, the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report lists critical thinking and problem-solving as top of the list of skills that are a must in the next five years. If you're offering corrective guidance to an employee about their problem-solving skills, here are some negative feedback example phrases to use:
- "I wanted to give you some feedback on your recent project. I think it went well overall, but a few areas could be improved. I've written some suggestions down, and I'm happy to discuss them with you further."
- "I know you're capable of hard work, and I think that brainstorming with the team would help you come up with some fresh ideas."
- "We could have faced the problem we're facing with better planning. I'm confident you'll be able to find a solution, but can we follow up on this to stay on track?"
- "We've come up against some challenging roadblocks recently, and I know it's frustrating. I just wanted to let you know that I'm here to support you and help you brainstorm solutions."
- "I know it's been a tough few weeks, and I think if you tried to think a little more outside of the box when looking for solutions, we'll achieve the results we're looking for. I wanted to let you know that I'm here to help you, and I have faith in your ability to problem-solve."
Employees who are aligned with your company culture and values are more likely to be engaged and productive.
A Slack State of Work report found that 90% of aligned employees understand how to be successful within the organization and 75% feel empowered to make strategic business decisions. If this is an area your team members need support with, consider the following phrases:
- "Our recent client meeting became heated, which didn't show our company in a positive light. In the future, it would be great if we could try to keep our cool and present a united front."
- "I know you're very active on social media, but bear in mind that everything you write online can be linked back to our company. In the future, please avoid posting anything that could reflect poorly on us."
- "I feel we need to revisit our company values and mission to ensure we're on the same page. I'm happy to discuss this further with you and get your input."
- "I feel there's a lack of team alignment at the moment, and we could benefit from some bonding time outside of work. I know you don't often make yourself available for these meetups, but it would help the team if you could join us."
- "I feel like our team's goals and objectives are not aligned with the company's wider strategy. Can we check in to discuss this further so that everyone is on the same page?"
Employee motivation can be a challenge, with only 15% of employees worldwide falling within the 'engaged' category.
But it's important to find ways to keep your team motivated to meet your productivity and retention goals.
- Team morale seems low at the moment, and I've noticed you don't seem engaged in your work. This is impacting other team members. Please try to participate more and show some enthusiasm."
- "I know you're not happy with the current project you're working on, but it's important to try and stay positive. What can I do to help you feel more motivated?"
- "I know you're finding your current workload challenging, but I believe in your ability to get the job done. I'm here to support you, so please let me know if you need help."
- "It seems like you're not enjoying your work at the moment. Is there anything I can do to help you feel more fulfilled in your role?"
- "We've had some enthusiastic new hires join us recently, but your energy hasn't matched theirs. It's important to stay positive and motivated in your work, so please let me know if there's anything I can do to help you."
A recent survey of almost 2,000 employees found that the average office worker is productive for just 2 hours and 53 minutes of the working day. And the impact of video conferencing and collaboration tools is costing as much as $1,250 per employee per month in wasted time. Encourage your employees to work smarter by making it clear you're there to offer support while giving them the space to find their own solutions.
- "I'm concerned that your productivity seems to have taken a dip recently. Can we brainstorm some ways to help you work more efficiently?"
- "It seems like you're struggling to stay on top of your workload. Can I help you prioritize your tasks to focus on the most important ones?"
- "I know you're taking on a lot at the moment, but I'm concerned that your work is suffering as a result. Can we talk about ways to help you manage your time more effectively?"
- "I know you have a lot going on in your personal life, but I'm worried that your work is starting to suffer. Let's talk about ways to help you manage your time more effectively and plan some vacation if you need it."
- "We've recently switched to a new project management system which is designed to streamline our processes and make things easier for the team. But I don't feel you've embraced the new system. Can we talk about how it can help you be more efficient in your work?"
International Keynote Speaker Shola Kaye explains,
"Employees aren't the only ones who can receive feedback about their performance at work. As a manager or business leader, it's important to receive feedback from your employees so you can understand how you're doing and what you need to do to improve.
While every manager hopes for positive feedback, they may still receive negative feedback from time to time, and it's how they respond to that feedback that can really make the difference."
💼 Negative feedback examples for managers from their boss
This type of one-to-one feedback is similar to any other employee performance review in your organization.
The only difference is there will be a focus on performance management and leadership skills to ensure the feedback recipient is nurturing the talent under their wing.
- "I've noticed that you're not delegating tasks to other team members as much as you used to. I understand that you want to keep control of the project, but it's important to delegate so that other team members can develop their skills. Can we talk about how you can delegate more effectively?"
- "Your direct reports rely on you to provide guidance and support. But I've noticed that you're not giving them enough performance feedback, which is impacting their work. Can we talk about how you can provide more constructive guidance?"
- "I know you're passionate about your work, but I've noticed that you're not letting your team share their ideas. It's important to create a culture of growth where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. Can we work on this?
- "It's important for our leadership team to be visible across the organization and set a great example to our entry-level employees. Can you try to be more active on the company's social media channels and attend more networking events?"
- "I've noticed that you're not engaging with your team as much as you used to. It's important for team members to feel like they can approach you with their ideas and concerns. Can you come up with ideas to be more collaborative?
✍️ Negative feedback for manager from employee examples
360 review processes are a two-way street, so leaders will also receive feedback from their own direct reports or employees within the organization.
Here are some examples employees can use in their real-life reviews:
- "I don't feel like my voice is heard in our team meetings. I understand that you're trying to keep control of the discussion, but it would be helpful if you opened up the floor for more discussion."
- "I feel like I have to tiptoe around you because you're so easily offended. It makes it difficult to have an honest conversation."
- "I don't feel like you trust me to do my job. I understand that you want to micromanage because you're worried things will fall through the cracks, but it's preventing me from doing my best work."
- "I don't feel like my work is valued. I know that you're busy, but it would mean a lot if you took the time to give me feedback on my projects."
- "I feel like you're playing favorites with certain team members. It creates a lot of tension within the team and makes it difficult to work together."
💬 Would you like some more examples, and extra tips and tricks? Then, check out our article Peer Review Examples: 50 Effective Phrases for Your Next Performance or Skill Review.
💡 Delivering negative feedback: 7 Effective tips
There are a few important things to keep in mind when passing negative feedback on to your team members.
Be specific and objective
When critiquing an employee's behavior or performance, ensure that the feedback is constructive and not demotivating.
Nicola Smith offers Outsourced Human Resources support for business owners & managers.
She explains, "Be specific. Keep in mind the purpose is to improve the performance of your employees."
Use "I" statements
Feedback that starts with "you" can be confrontational.
For example, "you're always late" is more likely to provoke a defensive reaction than "I noticed that you were late to work today."
Focus on the behavior, not the person
Describe the action or behavior you want to avoid, for example, interrupting each other during meetings. Then offer suggestions to demonstrate how your feedback recipient could improve their participation in group discussions.
Avoid using absolutes
Cut words like "always" and "never" out of your feedback. These absolutes are rarely accurate, and they also tend to be demotivating.
Be aware of your tone
The way you say something is often just as important as what you say. When delivering negative feedback, it's important to be aware of your tone of voice and body language. If you come across as angry, judgmental, or sarcastic, your feedback will be less effective.
Use the feedback sandwich
This popular performance review technique focuses on sandwiching negative feedback in the middle of two positive pieces of feedback.
Always plan ahead
"Taking time to plan what you're going to say and how you're going to say it beforehand can make or break the successful delivery of negative feedback," says David Levine, former Chief of Staff at the White House Office of Administration.
Zavvy offers an AI-powered employee feedback tool that makes giving and receiving feedback easy and effective.
You can use Zavvy's AI coach for tips and tricks on framing feedback the right way.
Or just ask Zavvy's AI directly in your feedback survey for better ways to formulate your input.
🤚 5 Examples for handling negative feedback
If it's challenging to dish out critical feedback, receiving it is even more difficult. But if you can learn to accept and receive negative feedback in a constructive way, it can be a valuable tool for helping you grow and develop in your career.
In most cases, the person giving the feedback wants to see you thrive, so keep that in mind even if you're feeling wounded.
Career Coach Ekua Cant says:
"Clarity can be gained by getting constructive feedback. The problem I have found is sometimes I am guilty of some of these listening sins too:
- Predicting what I think will be said and not actually listening.
- Deciding the feedback holds no value for me and letting it wash over me without digesting.
- Obsessing about the guilt, shame, or negative feelings and again not coming from a place of curiosity about the feedback being delivered.
- Not acting on really helpful feedback stings because it makes me question if I've been doing it right or what I had believed instead of being open to learning and growth."
Here are some examples of how to respond to negative feedback.
- "I'll be honest, I feel a little confused about the feedback, but I'm absolutely committed to doing a great job for the team. Can you give me some specific examples of what you're referring to?"
- "This is really useful, thank you. I'd love to discuss this from my point of view, and perhaps suggest some training opportunities I'm interested in. Would that be okay?"
- "Thanks for letting me know. This has given me a chance to consider exploring other roles in the company. Could we sit down and chat about the available opportunities?"
- "This is tough to hear, but I appreciate your honesty. I'm going to take some time to think about this and see if there's anything I can do to improve. In the meantime, can we brainstorm some ideas for how I could delegate more effectively?"
- "Thank you for your feedback. It sounds like you think I could have handled the situation better. Can you give me some specific examples of what I could have done differently?"
📈 Create a company culture of feedback and growth with Zavvy
Delivering negative feedback is a part of any feedback process, as uncomfortable as it may seem sometimes. It is as important as reinforcing (positive) feedback in promoting a growth mindset in your organization.
The key is to present the feedback as an opportunity for change rather than a threat to your people. Your goal should be to motivate your employees and enable their growth journey.
Employee growth is our specialty at Zavvy. We have developed a suite of tools that:
1. Enable your company to quickly set up feedback cycles where multiple reviewers can share feedback for your employees.
Our feedback solution is highly customizable, scalable, and you can tailor it to your specific needs (e.g., you can collect feedback anonymously or not, the choice is all yours.
2. Advanced feedback analytics that will showcase the strengths and weaknesses of your people, as well as any skill gaps. Take advantage of skills matrices, spider webs and individual feedback reports.
3. Development plans that enable your people to turn any weakness into opportunity for growth.
4. Extensive training library with hundreds of learning resources curated by our learning scientists. No matter the employee development area, we have the course for it.
5. Career paths that will motivate your people to put in the work to reach the next levels of their careers.
Our platform is highly customizable, scalable, and you can tailor it to your specific needs.
Giving feedback is the easier part. Making that feedback drive meaningful change and improve performance is the biggest challenge.
Zavvy's suite of tools and team of experts will help you drive a high-performance culture in your organization.
📅 Learn more by getting in touch with Zavvy to arrange a demo.
What is constructive feedback?
Constructive feedback is also known as redirecting feedback.This means that you focus on offering corrective suggestions for improvement rather than simply criticizing an employee's negative behavior or performance.
All types of feedback should be:
• and actionable.
For example, rather than saying, "you're lazy," you might say, "I noticed that you took longer lunch breaks last week than you usually do. In the future, I'd appreciate it if you could keep your lunch breaks to 30 minutes."
What is the most common negative feedback?
The most common negative feedback focuses on areas for improvement rather than accomplishments. Here are the key points to consider:
- Negative feedback helps employees grow and develop by addressing specific behaviors or performance issues.
- It provides valuable insights and guidance for enhancing effectiveness and productivity.
- The purpose is to empower employees to make positive changes and reach their full potential.
- Effective negative feedback is specific, objective, and actionable, delivered respectfully for professional growth.
Where to get started with negative and constructive feedback?
Foster a feedback culture:
- Encourage open communication and a supportive environment.
Set clear expectations:
- Define performance standards and guidelines for constructive feedback.
Focus on specific behaviors:
- Identify areas for improvement and address them directly.
Offer actionable suggestions:
- Provide practical guidance to help individuals grow.
By following these steps, you can initiate the process of giving effective negative and constructive feedback to promote growth and development within your team.
When should I give feedback?
It's best to give feedback as soon as possible after the event, giving the recipient time to process it and take action if needed. The sooner, the better!