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Top 5 Ways for Organizations to Handle Negative Employee Feedback

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, April 07, 2016

97% believe that negative feedback from employees can be useful.

Waggl, a digital platform that offers companies a simple way to surface and distill real-time actionable feedback, recently designed an ongoing research project called The Voice of the Workplace. Waggl goes beyond the traditional survey by offering an extremely easy way to listen to many voices at once within an organization for the purpose of making it better. Its real-time listening platform creates a transparent, authentic two-way dialogue that gives people a voice, distills insights, and unites organizations through purpose.

This latest Voice of the Workplace survey was sent out through the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA), InsiderHub, and Executive Networks over a two-week period (March 8 to 23, 2016). The three organizations helped comprise an external audience of some 500 business leaders, HR leaders and consultants. The survey participants were first asked whether or not they agreed with the following two key statements: 

1) “Providing an open forum for employees to offer candid feedback is essential for organizational improvement,” and

2) “Negative feedback from employees can be useful to help an organization improve.” 

An overwhelming 96% responded positively to the first statement, and 97% to the second.  The responses were fairly consistent across various sizes of organization, job titles, and geographic regions.

There was a unanimous agreement that negative feedback from employees can be useful. Over the years, Waggl has seen many instances of companies that have either ignored or attempted to eradicate negative feedback, usually with less than optimal results. 

The data from this also poll indicates that attitudes are shifting, with business and HR leaders alike becoming more open to candid feedback, and more receptive about how to work with it to make their organizations stronger.

The Voice of the Workplace also included a second, open-ended, question in this particular survey: “What is the most constructive way for organizations to handle negative feedback from employees?” 

Here are the top five answers that were crowdsourced with over 3,000 votes on Waggl:

1.  “Provide a response to those giving feedback to indicate that it was heard and understood; then describe action to be taken -- this may include no action, but providing feedback indicates that the input was carefully considered. Further information may clarify the situation about which negative feedback occurred. Responses must be respectful, and not defensive.

2.  “Listen, understand the real issue, probe into further information if needed to fully understand, and then address the feedback directly, honestly, and in a timely manner. Then ask if that helps or if there is further negative feedback.

3.  “Acknowledge and address openly and honestly - be transparent whenever possible - communicate, communicate, communicate.”

4.  “Ask employees to elaborate. Individual or small group. Be honest and transparent. Assume your employees are intelligent and honest people. The dialogue may be uncomfortable, but necessary to fill understandings of issues.

5.  “Acknowledge receipt of the feedback and try to understand its root cause. Be transparent about what the feedback was and what if anything can be done to address/ respond to it.

In the open-ended responses, a clear pattern emerged in which the participants advocated acknowledging the feedback in a transparent way---rather than hiding from it. They also sought to clarify and better understand the root cause, as well as take timely action to address the issues. 


Strong organizations “ACT” on feedback (A.C.T. Acknowledge, Clarify, and Take action).  They understand that to be the best possible version of their organization, they need to look to the wisdom in their own system, their own people. In some cases, the action taken might be explaining to employees why the decisions were made, which can be very powerful in building trust and alignment within an organization.


Waggl is typically used within organizations to collect and distill anonymous, real-time feedback from employees.  The platform provides a variety of templates for users to cultivate feedback, in only a few clicks.  Results are available immediately to administrators and participants in the form of easily digestible infographics.  Unlike traditional survey and polling platforms, Waggl creates a virtual dialogue with participants by asking open-ended questions where favorite responses can be ‘voted up.’  It’s fast and easy to share through multiple channels, and adds a fun, gamified aspect to the process of collecting feedback as shown below.

Tags:  employee  employee engagement  employee relations  employee wellness  HR  human resources  human resources management  NCHRA  stress management  Waggl  workplace 

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