Feedback Conversations: How to Deal with Employees TAKING OFFENSE

Feedback Conversations: How to Deal with Employees TAKING OFFENSE

Part 5 of 6 in a Series of Managing Five Common Emotional Reactions 

An offended reaction stops short of anger - but is decidedly emotional. Your employee may feel that the feedback is unfair, or is a character attack rather than feedback on their skills, knowledge or behavior and have taken it personally. It’s important to state your intention that your feedback is not meant to be a personal criticism of their character.

A great feedback conversation is about what a person is saying or doing, not who they are being.

However, some people can be so closely attached to their opinions that any disapproval of their behavior or skills (what they are saying or doing) is received as a judgment of them as a person (who they really are).

If they seem offended to you, the first thing to do is test how your feedback came across to them and guess into their reaction. For example, “It seems to me that you’re not happy with this feedback but I’m not sure exactly how you’re feeling about it. I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me,” or “I may be wrong but you seem offended. That’s not my intent at all. Please could you tell me what you’re thinking and feeling?”

What exactly are they upset with? Are they taking the feedback the wrong way? Have they misread your intentions? Do they disagree with your view on what happened? Confirm your intentions: “I’d like to reassure you that what I am trying to do is share my observations with a sincere intent to help and support you. I want to do this because I believe it may be helpful for you.”

OffendedAre they jumping to conclusions? Ask them to hear you out and show them you take part responsibility for what’s currently happening in the conversation. “I may not have explained this very clearly and I know it’s a sensitive issue. Please reserve your judgment, hear me out and give me your views on what happened. Let’s have an open conversation so we can fully understand each other. Okay?”

At the end of the conversation, try to increase their openness towards future feedback, for example, “I’d like us to have more feedback conversations because I want to support your success here. How could I help you become more open to receiving feedback next time, and what are your thoughts on what you could do?”

This is the Fifth in a series of blogs to help you manage five common emotional reactions that can be triggered during feedback conversations:

  1. How to Deal with Emotional Reactions in Feedback Conversations
  2. How to Deal with Silence
  3. How to Deal with Crying
  4. How to Deal with Disagreement
  5. How to Deal with Taking Offense
  6. How to Deal with Anger

This series of blogs is adapted from our Great Feedback Workbook. To learn more about our Great Feedback Training, contact us at

Tagged as