There are times when you have to make tough decisions and often give direct reports that could have negative feedback. And though it is easy to explain the expected to your younger colleagues or those junior to you, the reverse can be a hassle. In fact, when it comes to people who are older than you or even senior than you, it’s rather tough.
These are people who had either mentored you or have been with the company for a long time — so any kind of feedback from a junior colleague can be viewed with scepticism. However, two wrongs don’t make a right! Negative feedback needs to be communicated so that the future projects or tasks can be executed with precision. So how do you give negative feedback to people who are older than you:
Communicate face to face
Why emails are the norm for giving feedback — negative feedback for older people should be given directly. Handling the issue personally is reflected because you can view the response of the individual. It could be they are genuinely trying and not able to update their skills, especially when it comes to advanced technology. Communicating directly gives a personal touch to the conversation. It makes them feel important and you can gently explain what’s happening. Doing so helps in positive reinforcement and they would try to garner the positive criticism that comes from negative feedback.
Try to understand their perspective
While giving negative feedback is important one also has to understand the point of view of the receiver. What is it that preventing them from executing the tasks? If there were issues with the work, what caused it. Is it the first time that the were receiving such feedback or is it happening repeatedly. When providing feedback, it is imperative that you understand this point of view. Someone who’s been getting negative feedback regularly but not acting on it or showing no scope of improvement needs sterner communication. You can ask them what’s happening on their end and why they are not really revealing results.
On the other hand, if this is the first time that your older colleague has received negative feedback, you should try to empathise them. Find out if they are having issues with technology or a particular project. This will help to establish a better relationship with them and provide them with the necessary tools to fix things.
Be assertive when required
There are some people who don’t take feedback seriously or rather opt for denial. Such individuals may misuse their seniority or try to put you off because you are younger to them in terms of age. This should determine your next course of action. It is possible that your colleague is in detail or not willing to accept the fact that a junior is giving them feedback. In such cases, you should be stern and assertive when explaining your response. You should explain to them this feedback comes after evaluation and based on performance.
Be patient but don’t let them take you for a ride just because they are older to you. At the end of it, the work quality matters — someone being older doesn’t make them right!
It is suggested that you try the patient and friendly approach. Usually even older people realise they constantly need to update their skills and take feedback sportingly. If not, you might have to take a sterner step handling the situation.