How to give constructive feedback when working remotely
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Giving ongoing constructive feedback is one of the best ways to let your employees know how they are performing and what is expected from them. This is especially important when staff members aren’t performing at their best to help prevent any negative feelings that could get in the way of them improving.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and many people working from home, giving constructive feedback and managing staff remotely has become a challenge for many small businesses. We have heard from business owners and managers struggling to balance work feedback with being sympathetic to the new working conditions, and associated Coronavirus issues. It really is a tricky one!

While the new environment and challenges of recent times have been more emotive than normal, our advice remains the same, and the way to give feedback (including negative feedback) remains the same.

Here are a few tips to help you continue to give appropriate constructive feedback when your staff are working from home in difficult conditions:

Always communicate face-to-face

Never send a text and try to avoid emailing to relay your feedback as this can be easily misinterpreted, and its importance diminished. You don’t get to see the visual cues of how someone reacts, and neither do you have the option of discussing the problem.

Ask your employee if you can have a quick informal chat over a video call, which is the next best thing to actually being face to face.

Get straight to the point

Make sure to get straight to the point, as constructive feedback is much more effective when you don’t beat around the bush. Use simple language, and explain the problem immediately, that way your employee is under no illusion that the call is about something else.

Ask them for their solutions and opinion and make sure you listen to what they have to say. When you have agreed on a course of action, ask your employee to tell you what the plan is to make sure they’ve understood.

You can then follow the meeting up with an email, or ask them to email you with the action points so you have written evidence of your conversation.

Focus on your body language

Over video, it can be more challenging to pick up on emotion. To ensure you’re not sending out mixed messages make sure you appear calm and concerned, as this will help you convey that the issue should be taken seriously.

Another challenge with remote meetings can be the delay of speech on a conferencing system, which can cut off the end of sentences and make it appear like you are not listening. So make a conscious effort of listening intently whilst taking breaks between sentences to give your team member a chance to speak – it can be quite easy to chat over one another!

By listening to your employee, it shows you are prepared to listen to their concerns, and it can often be an opportunity for them to express their ideas that become part of the solution.

Pick the right time

Feedback is best when it isn’t coloured by emotion, so make sure you’ve “cooled off” before speaking to an employee about something negative to ensure your comments remain objective.

It’s also important to make sure to issue the feedback in a timely manner, so the situation is still fresh in both your minds.

Focus on the specific problem, not the individual

When providing any feedback to any of your employees, focus on impartial observations and outcomes rather than the individual’s attributes as this could be portrayed as a personal attack, resulting in them being unmotivated to address the problem.

You should also focus on the specific problem at hand, structure any feedback around it and provide any background information if necessary, to ensure your employee fully understands the issue. The clearer your feedback, the more actionable it will be for your employee.

It doesn’t all have to be negative!

Lastly, it doesn’t need to just be negative! By mixing positive comments with the negative it tells your employee that you’re not criticising their overall performance, just a certain element of it.

You may have heard of the feedback sandwich. It’s a technique that sandwiches the constructive feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. This approach can help keep your employees motivated.

How we can help

As part of our HR Support service, we have a series of in-depth, easy to understand guides about giving feedback and managing teams to help give you peace of mind that you’re doing things the right way.

Why not give us a call on 0333 014 3888 or email and we can let you know all the ways we can help you tackle HR head-on.


The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

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