Working in a Team: Delivering Comprehensive Feedback Remotely

In a previous blog, we discussed how to coach in a remote setting. Now, let’s talk about delivering feedback through whatever digital avenue you may be using. Delivering constructive feedback can be nerve-wracking and receiving it gracefully is just as hard. The new remote environment we are working in coupled with the ongoing stress of the pandemic has made it even harder. But you aren’t alone — more than 50% of employees say they don’t regularly speak their minds at work.

Why a Culture of Listening is Important

The value of positive feedback is obvious. It reinforces the right behaviors and is directly linked to increased employee engagement and productivity. On the other hand, let’s say you have negative feedback. Delivered constructively, it reduces misaligned behaviors and helps your team members understand their strengths and weaknesses. The right feedback provided at a critical juncture can have a significant impact on someone’s behaviors, skills, and even career.

For your team members, it gives them something more than the good old metaphorical pat on the back. Take a look at these statistics:

  • 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized;
  • 98% of employees fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback; and
  • 40% say they are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback.

The New Remote Setting

Giving feedback in person allows for more customization. For example, you can adjust the environment you deliver the feedback in based on the severity of the news. You can choose a comfier room for a private feedback conversation and go with a conference room for news with a more serious tone.

But with your employees working at home, you can’t control that setting anymore. You’re in this position where you’re no longer able to rely on nonverbal cues when having those difficult conversations. Taking a few steps to be more strategic about how you deliver constructive feedback can prevent distorting the way your employees view your feedback.

  1. Start off asking questions.

Begin by asking and listening to their perspective. For example, “What did you think of the task?” or “How did it go?” Learning about their experience and what they think of their work makes it easier for you to raise your concern since they’ve already mentioned it. If they don’t voice any concerns or thought there weren’t any, you can say, “I ask because I noticed (or heard) X.” For both cases, you’re hoping they’ll be willing to brainstorm ways to handle the same situation differently in the future.

  1. Offer appreciation before criticism.

People are more receptive to constructive criticism if they’re first told what they did well. The goal here is not a simple thumbs up but to make your praise as concrete as the concern you’re about to raise. If that isn’t doable, praise their willingness to improve.

  1. State your good intentions.

Explicitly stating your intentions goes a long way toward improving how the other person hears bad news. For example, “I’m in your corner” or, “I want you to be successful but right now, I see something getting in the way of your success.” A simple reframing makes all the difference.

  1. Clarify and contrast.

After you’ve raised your concern or suggestion, you can follow it with, “What I mean is X. What I don’t mean is Y.” For instance, “What I am saying is that I’m concerned you don’t have the proper skill set right now. What I am not saying is that you can’t do this.” This helps you preemptively address any negative perceptions.

Taking the time and care to deliver constructive feedback with clarity and sensitivity will help your team members focus on the reality of your message – even in a remote working environment.