Offering feedback is a tricky business. What you say and how you say can have a major impact on how the other person receives the information you’re sharing. Constructive criticism is necessary for growth and should be practiced regularly. If the process is not handled delicately, however, someone could easily be offended or discouraged, thereby potentially damaging their effectiveness and morale.
While workers in a typical office setting can possibly struggle to communicate feedback during face-to-face conversations, remote workers are faced with additional challenges. In-person settings allow both parties access to each other’s facial expressions and body language, as well as the opportunity to initiate further conversation and clarity. Remote workers, on the other hand, may receive their feedback in the form of an email, instant message, or a quick phone call. In such short moments that lack insight into each other’s demeanor, workers are less likely to have complete clarity and/or perhaps take criticism more harshly.
Leaders providing feedback remotely have added responsibility to properly construct their opinions and to deliver them in a timely manner to be most effective. Below are a few helpful tips to consider.
Create a Habit of Regular Contact
By nature, remote workers experience less human interaction than in-person positions. While people who work in offices may bump into their colleagues in the lunchroom or enjoy small talk in passing, remote workers don’t experience the same casual daily contact. Such conversations may seem trivial, but they hold hidden value.
Constant contact, even in small doses, gives workers a sense of community and peace of mind that they’re on “good terms” with team members. Remote workers, on the other hand, are more likely to feel isolated and potentially insecure when they don’t have ongoing contact with their team. Working remotely rarely allows for accidental contact– everything is intentional. By initiating frequent communication, whether quick praise or feedback, you’re normalizing commentary and building a valuable connection that will allow for a healthier playing field to deliver constructive criticism when necessary.
Make Praise a Part of Your Routine
Normally, workers receive feedback only when it’s negative. Good work, too often, goes unmentioned and praise goes unsaid. Workers hearing only negative feedback are prone to question their effectiveness and contribution to the team. What’s more, negative comments hold more weight than positive ones, making the magnitude of praise important in order to counteract criticism. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
The fix is simple. When someone on your team has great insight or does thorough work, let them know you recognize their efforts. Also, consider the way in which you express your compliments. Rather than a blanket phrase like “Good job!”, get specific with your praise so team members feel directly seen and appreciated.
Choose Your Medium Wisely
While face-to-face conversations aren’t often available to remote workers, plenty of other communication channels are very effective. From emails, instant messages, phone calls, or video chats, workers have a wide range of communication options. All forms of contact are useful, but each has specific merits depending on the content of the message.
While a quick IM or email may be effective to express praise, negative feedback is always sensitive and should be treated with extra care. A spoken conversation allows both parties a more in-depth look at the topic as well as each other’s disposition. Consider utilizing a private phone or video call for conveying sensitive information so that the recipient therefore has access to your tone of voice and is granted a safe, private space to discuss what you both have to say.
For positive praise, group messages or meetings are a great setting for acknowledging others’ hard work. Private praise works just fine, but announcing individual accomplishment in front of the entire group magnifies the accomplishment.
Turn Constructive Criticism Into a Conversation
Sometimes negative feedback is viewed as a one-way street. Whether by email or a phone call, the person doing the critiquing expresses their thoughts, the receiver listens, and the conversation isn’t much of a conversation at all. If that’s the way you’re handling feedback, you may want to consider other options.
Once you initially outline your concerns, invite the team member to continue the discussion. opportunity. Ask, “Do you have any questions?”, “How can I be more helpful?”, “How can we achieve our goal?” Without allowing the receiver a chance to clarify or ask questions, the worker might not fully understand your comments or how to adjust for future success.
Constructive criticism isn’t limited to one person providing negative feedback to another without any follow-up. If you view feedback as an opportunity to discuss and to grow, productive conversation will follow.
Delivering feedback, both positive and negative, requires thoughtful preparation. The additional disadvantage of working remotely and not having access to in-person conversation makes the task even more complicated.
Consider your current feedback methods and try to discover what approaches have been unsuccessful for you in the past and why. Avoid continuing to use faulty approaches by implementing the approaches recommended above and seeing if an alternate approach works better for you. For extra insight on feedback delivery and team dynamics, check out Knowted’s products and services.