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7 Guidelines for Handling Negative Comments

Negative comments contain critical opinions about a topic, often about things an employee thinks can be improved or doesn’t like. Some comments may also be offensive, include harsh language, or single out teams and individuals in critical ways.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate these kinds of comments and address them:

Don’t take it personally.
Frame negative comments as opportunities to learn and grow rather than being offended and defensive.

Examine the nature of the comment(s). 
Does the comment make a valid point? Did it imply a misunderstanding that could be clarified? Do multiple negative comments revolve around a similar topic?

Don’t look for who made the comment.
This is most relevant for census surveys, but the key takeaway is to focus on ideas instead of who said what.

Consider all comments - not just the negative ones.
If a majority of comments about a topic are positive and only a few are negative, avoid letting the negative comments overshadow the positive.

Encourage healthy face-to-face discussions.
Have a one-on-one or group meeting to discuss topics mentioned in negative comments. Keep discussions topical, avoiding blame or character attacks.

Address the comments as they are written.
Avoid reading things into a comment that aren’t written – doing so may only escalate current negative feelings and create new ones.

Re-emphasize desire for constructive feedback.
Whether during a meeting or before future surveys, emphasize the importance of employees including constructive points in their comments, especially for topics they may have negative opinions about.  

For tips on handling survey comments in general, see this article.