12 Steps to Take After Receiving Negative Feedback About Your Company Culture

A healthy company culture is critical for fostering employee engagement, productivity and overall success. However, creating a positive culture is easier said than done, and even the best efforts can fall short.

When an employee comes to you with negative feedback about the company’s culture, it’s essential to handle the situation with care and sensitivity. To help you do this, 12 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share their best approaches for addressing employee feedback by responding to the following question:

“When an employee approaches you with negative feedback regarding the company’s culture, what’s the best approach for handling it? What should be a leader’s first step?”

Here’s how they recommend you turn this negative situation into an opportunity for growth.

1. Listen Carefully

“Building a company culture is hard work, and if someone is brave enough to give you negative feedback, be sure to listen. While you don’t have to take action on every piece of feedback, you can prioritize feedback on areas you can impact positively over time. If the feedback triggered a change, share it with that individual and work toward a solution in partnership.” ~ JT Allen, myFootpath LLC

2. Try Not to Take It Personally

“Pause. Breathe. Recognize the two challenges to overcome. One is that your employee is likely nervous, and there are likely multiple layers of messages behind the message. Draw them out and get to the bottom of the issue. At the same time, you’re likely taking this personally, which makes it hard to focus on helping them communicate. These stations really test our ability to check our egos.” ~ Alex Furman, Performica

3. Examine Your Own Behavior

“I always take company culture concerns seriously. It’s a good thing when employees care about the culture, and an important sign when they’ll take the responsibility of telling you there’s a problem. When you’re a leader, culture starts with you, and so you should take the first step of examining your own behavior. What are you demanding of your managers? Are you providing the resources to meet your standards?” ~ Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

4. Express Gratitude for Their Honesty

“When you run a company, you’ll definitely receive feedback from your employees. Some will be positive and some negative, but you have to handle both types professionally. Listen to what your employees have to say. Express your gratitude for bringing it to your notice and try to address it in a productive and collaborative way. If you can’t offer a solution, patiently explain why you can’t.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

5. Ask for Solutions

“The first thing you should do is acknowledge their feedback and thank them for their candor. Next, it’s best to listen to what they have to say and inquire if they’d like to propose any solutions to fix the problem. This shows that, despite the flaws pointed out, the company’s culture values feedback and encourages inclusion, which helps portray a positive image and build trust.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

6. Find the Root of the Problem

“If you get negative feedback from an employee about your company culture, the key to handling the situation is to figure out why they feel that way. Once you understand if it’s a misunderstanding or an accurate statement, you can start planning your next move. For misunderstandings, explain the situation and find common ground. Alternatively, real cultural problems need to be addressed internally.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

7. Validate Your Employee’s Experience

“The best approach for handling negative feedback regarding the company’s culture is to first listen, acknowledge and validate the employee’s experience. It is important to remain calm, ask clarifying questions and be open to learning more. You should also ask the employee how they would suggest addressing the issue and then work together to come up with a solution.” ~ Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP

8. Ask Questions

“The first thing I do when an employee approaches me with negative feedback is ask questions. The key is to ask innocent questions to learn about the source of the problem. Your employee will appreciate that you’re listening and trying to get to the bottom of the issue, which can help you reassess and reclaim your company culture.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC

9. Demonstrate That Their Feedback Matters

“It’s the feedback from your employees that gives you the real picture of your company’s culture. It helps you gain perspective from that employee’s point of view. So listen to them intently. Make sure your employees feel safe offering feedback on a regular basis and let them know that their feedback matters by responding to their feedback positively and ensuring that it will be acted upon.” ~ Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

10. Empathize With Your Employees

“First, acknowledge that the employee was brave and responsible for bringing up something that’s difficult to address. Then, take some time to ponder over the employee’s feedback. Avoid any attempt to dismiss the employee’s concern or to justify the current culture. When you do this, you’re truly empathizing, and this is critical to make real and impactful changes.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

11. Discuss Specific Examples

“Listen to what your employee has to say and ask for specific examples of the difficulties or issues they have observed. Managers must have good communication skills to make this discussion productive and positive for both parties, and having a thick skin is the best way to listen to grievances. If the employee implies that more people feel this way, organize a meeting to have an open discussion.” ~ Bryce Welker, Big 4 Accounting Firms

12. Take Action to Improve the Culture

“Your first step should be to stop and go through the feedback carefully before responding. Next, you should talk to the employee in a logical and conversational manner to understand the root of the problem. Once you understand what or who is harming the culture, you must take well-thought-out actions to improve the involved practices or policies while taking measures to discourage bad behavior.” ~ Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

Image: Envato Elements

This article, “12 Steps to Take After Receiving Negative Feedback About Your Company Culture” was first published on Small Business Trends