Advice for Tough Feedback Sessions

by Amy Jen Su

  • Remember the “why.”

Focus on all the good reasons you’re giving the feedback. Remind yourself and your employee by saying things like, “I need to share this with you because I want you to be successful here” or “I want to see you keep growing.”

  • Find your center and prepare.

Start by increasing your own self-awareness: How do you react when another person has an emotional reaction? Do you sugarcoat the feedback — trying to avoid a conflict — or get frustrated and fight back?

Don’t wing it. You’ll feel better prepared if you do your homework in advance and ground your assessments in observations, data, and concrete examples. Invest the time to be as thoughtful as possible

  • Handle reactions in the moment.

Sound preparation won’t stop the other person from reacting negatively, but it can help you to respond calmly and effectively when the emotions arise.

  • Move the conversation to a productive place.

The goal is to diffuse the emotional reaction so that you can productively give the feedback and, together, come up with ideas and actions to ensure the person’s success. This may mean having a second meeting, requesting that you regroup after the person has had time to calm down and collect themselves.


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