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Giving Feedback Remotely: STRICT Do’s And Don’ts

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Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

– Frank A. Clark 

Giving feedback remotely is something that many of us did not envision a few years ago. 

However, life tends to throw the kitchen sink at us when we least expect it. We don’t need to talk about the dramatic turn of events that unfolded in the first quarter of 2020 and continue to affect millions of people as well as organizations in many parts of the world. 

I once had to give feedback remotely to some employees of ProofHub over a phone call a few years ago as I was out of the country on a business trip. 

Till that point, I always gave in-person, face-to-face feedback. I was uncomfortable with the idea of virtual feedback but had to proceed with it. And it didn’t go down well; unclarity loomed large over it. 

There were some reasons as to why it didn’t go well. I realized that you cannot prepare for giving feedback remotely the same way you do for in-person feedback. 

In this article, we will take a look at some common challenges that you are likely to face in the way of delivering feedback remotely (along with potential solutions). Many of these problems arise because we deal with both types of feedback the same way, which is not the right way to do things. 

To begin with, let’s take a look at why giving feedback in time is important not just for your employees but also for the entire organization as a whole. 

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Why Giving Timely Feedback Is Crucial To Improving Performance 

Even children studying in the school need to be told how they’re faring in studies to know whether they’re improving or not. The same holds for employees albeit on a more serious note. 

Without feedback, your employees are no better than blindfolded people who do not know where they’re heading. They may reach their goal purely surviving on luck, which is more unlikely to happen. In all likelihood, your employees will continue to wander through the dark. 

feedback for remote workers

Giving constructive and timely feedback is important so that your employees (and your organization) can know whether they are progressing towards their goals or not. 

Let’s take a look at how giving feedback remotely (timely and constructively) is worth its weight in gold. 

  • Regular and consistent feedback can motivate employees to further improve their performance besides working on their shortcomings. Managers can observe employees, figure out their strengths and weaknesses, appreciate their good work, and make them know their role and value within the organization. 
  • Providing timely, upfront feedback will help your employees know whether their approach to work needs a change or not. In case the performance is not up to the mark, they will know what changes need to be made to improve performance and deliver expected results.
  • Regular feedback elevates employee engagement. Engaged employees are known to be the most efficient employees. They are more likely to stay with your company and put in earnest efforts to improve their performance. 
  • Employee turnover is quite expensive for organizations but effective feedback can make your most talented and skilled employees stay loyal, which in turn, decreases turnover. Through feedback, your employees know what they need to do to move up the ladder of their careers. 
  • A feedback culture can remove communication barriers between the management and employees. The organization can communicate its objectives, goals, and vision to employees while the latter can also convey their concerns, expectations, and suggestions to the former. 

These are only a few of the countless benefits of giving effective and timely feedback to your employees. Next, we will take a look at some challenges faced by leaders in giving virtual feedback to remote employees. 

Some Common Complications You Can Face While Giving Feedback Remotely

Complication#1: Missing Non-Verbal/Visual Cues

One of the main challenges of giving feedback remotely is the lack of non-verbal/visual cues. Unlike remote feedback sessions, in-person feedback sessions give team leaders vital clues about what their reportees are trying to say through their body language (facial expressions, movement of hands and feet, posture, tone of voice, eye contact, etc.).

Since there are fewer real-world meetings in the days of remote work, team leaders have to pay close attention to verbal and written cues to decipher what the other person is trying to say. I believe using video conferencing software does help but it still cannot replace a face-to-face meeting

Complication#2: Lack Of Empathy 

Virtual communication can never match the intimacy and emotional touch of the real world. Remote workers can and do struggle with isolation and loneliness. There is a strong possibility of some leaders appearing cold or apathetic to their employees when communicating virtually. 

And not all leaders can be blamed for this behaviour because they are unable to experience the emotions of their reportees due to physical separation. Leaders can get caught up in their personal situation, and sometimes forget that employees also have their lives, families, and problems.  

Lack of empathy may impact team productivity and cause intra-team conflict. 

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Complication#3: Background Noises 

Remote work means leaders spending most of their time on conference calls and in-person meetings. While giving something as crucial as remote feedback, disturbing background noises can affect the quality of conversations. Some common examples of background noises are dogs barking, a conversation between people, phone bells ringing, kids fighting and crying, etc. 

These noises make it increasingly difficult for both sides to focus on discussed topics, give suggestions, express opinions, or answer questions. It is not possible to control all such noises, but they can degrade the quality of remote feedback to a large extent. 

Complication#4: Different Timezones

If you’re giving remote feedback to your reportee living in different countries then scheduling an audio/video call at the same time can be difficult due to different timezones. Many times it happens that both sides fail to figure out a common time for a feedback call because while one side is active, the other side is sleeping because it’s midnight in that timezone. 

Both sides need to participate in feedback with an active state of mind so that no crucial point is missed and a healthy discussion takes place. 

Complication#5: Lack Of Trust 

Many remote team leaders are having trust issues simply because of physical barriers in two-way communication; no face-to-face communication and daily interactions with remote employees. 

This can lead to reduced trust and cohesion between leaders and their teams, and even amongst the team members themselves. This mistrust can reflect in remote feedback too, and your reportee may feel hard done by. 

Best Tips On How To Provide Constructive Feedback Remotely

We’ve read about the significance of feedback for employees and the challenges faced by team leaders in providing the same in the days of remote working. 

For most employees and managers, this situation is relatively new as they’re accustomed to traditional feedback methods. 

remote feedback

We cannot approach both types of feedback (face-to-face and virtual) in the same way, which is a common mistake made by team leaders. This was the same mistake made by me but I quickly made amends to my approach on giving feedback remotely, and the results were more than satisfactory. 

I’ve put together a list of some tried and tested methods to give feedback remotely in a constructive and honest way that your employees, yourself, and your organization benefits from the process. 

Tip#1: Use The Best Video Conferencing Tool 

The lack of face-to-face communication cannot be used as an excuse by either team leaders or remote employees in this tech-savvy age. No point in fretting over things that are not under your control. So, it’s better to use a reliable video conferencing tool to at least have a visual connection with your remote employees. Much better than only using an audio call for this crucial process where non-verbal cues are missing (body language, facial expressions).

Seeing your remote employees live on camera (and vice-versa) makes all participants feel comfortable and connected to each other, especially when you haven’t seen each other for a while due to remote work. On the other hand, it’s important to use a tool with high-definition audio and visuals so that both audio and video communication is crystal-clear and flows without any annoying interruptions (your internet network connection also matters!). 

Tip#2:  Start Off On A Friendly, Warm Note

You’re the leader of the pack and you mean business but no harm in starting a remote feedback session on a warm, friendly note. Tearing straightaway into your subordinate’s work will only add to his/her stress and anxiety. Displaying a little compassion can go a long way towards making your reportees feel confident and build trust between both sides. 

You don’t have to go overboard to show genuine compassion as a leader; doing simple things like exchanging pleasantries (as in a regular office) will do the job. Begging with a small, casual talk, keep a genuine smile on your face, wave at your reportees, and ask them how all they are doing. 

A few words of appreciation on a job well done can make a big difference. The key is to make your reportees feel that you are on their side and want them to progress by sorting out some issues that may be there. 

Tip#3: Clear Goals And Priorities

Whether it’s team feedback or one-on-one feedback, team leaders should take little time to get straight to the point. You can ask all your reportees on what tasks they’re working currently, and if they are facing any issues with work. If you are not satisfied with the progress or quality of the work then explain the problem without beating around the bush. 

Any changes to deadlines or goals should be shared immediately with the team. Encourage them to give their suggestions and opinions, and listen attentively to what they have to say. Consider documenting positive feedback to be shared with the entire team while supporting your team members to come up with an action plan to fix errors and make improvements.

Tip#4:  Focus On Problems, Not Individuals 

Data has shown that many performance reviews are guided by inherent biases. As a responsible leader, you should concentrate on unbiased observations, not individual qualities or the lack thereof. Evaluate the performance of your team members or individuals based on their actual contributions to organizational and project goals. 

One of the most important things you can do to give feedback remotely in an accurate and straightforward manner is by collecting and referring to accurate data for fair, unbiased performance evaluation. 

Tip#5: Keep Your Body Language Positive

As a leader, it’s important to maintain positive body language when giving feedback remotely. When you’re on cam, it’s not easy for other people to pick up on your emotions. So, try to set your cam in a way that shows your entire body posture (keep it open and receptive) rather than only showing a face so your team can pick up your gestures.

Make sure you appear calm and relaxed rather than putting up an angry, frustrated face in front of others. Your dressing should be formal, as it would be during a real-world feedback session. Look directly (not at yourself or side walls) at the camera to maintain eye contact with others while talking to them. Practicing all these things can help you build rapport and trust with your attendees. 

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Tip#6: Follow Through 

Once you’ve given feedback remotely, it’s important to follow through on it. Accountability can be a bit of a challenge in days of remote work, so you want to make sure that corrective actions and plans discussed during the feedback are executed by your team members. 

You can fix the responsibility of a chosen individual for taking charge of accountability or ask all team members to email you weekly or fortnightly to give updates on the execution of feedback. Remind them in a firm tone that you do not want feedback to be ignored at any cost. 

There’s a problem with every solution. Similarly, giving feedback remotely might have some challenges but careful planning and use of the right tools can easily help leaders overcome them without any fuss. 

How ProofHub Is The Best Tool For Leaders For Giving Feedback Remotely 

ProofHub is a top-rated team collaboration and project management software used by more than 85,000 teams worldwide. ProofHub offers powerful features under one roof that can be used by team leaders to provide accurate and unbiased feedback to remote teams. 

ProofHub as best remote feedback tool

Let’s find out how ProofHub makes giving remote feedback easier and efficient for leaders across various industries. 

  • Online Proofing Helps Leaders Collaborate On Designs And Documents

ProofHub’s online proofing feature enables team leaders and team members to collaborate on designs and documents in one place from their respective locations. Leaders can add clear and actionable feedback for specific regions and once the desired changes are made, they can approve files and documents with a single click. 

  • Multilingual Interface Helps Leaders To Set Language Of Their Choice

It’s quite possible that your team consists of individuals from different states and different geographical locations. Their language and cultures could be different from yours. ProofHub gives team leaders an added advantage to choose the language of  interface from English, Italian, French, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and German and communicate with teams in the language you and your team wants. 

  • Smart Task Management Enables Leaders To Keep Track Of Project Progress

Giving feedback remotely should not be based on assumptions. To help leaders give correct feedback remotely, ProofHub’s smart task management software makes it easy for them to create, assign, and monitor tasks in a single location. Leaders can see who’s doing what, and whether they are doing work at the right speed. 

  • Time-Tracking Lets Leaders Know Who’s Utilizing Time (and who’s not)

Time is of great importance in modern work environments. Using ProofHub’s automated and manual time trackers, leaders can obtain accurate records of exactly how much time is being spent on tasks. Leaders can use this data to figure out if some employees are taking longer than usual to perform some tasks. On the other hand, time-tracking also helps managers identify the most efficient employees. 

  • Custom Help Leaders Analyze Individual And Overall Project Progress 

ProofHub’s resource management reports help leaders monitor their team’s performance in simple roadmap timelines and charts. Leaders can use individual reports to analyze performance and progress across all projects assigned to team members. Visualize overdue, open, and completed tasks by an individual based on labels and see what they are behind on, and use this information to give feedback remotely. 

  • Online Discussions Bring Leaders And Their Reportees On A Single, Shared Platform

Discussion is the core of feedback sessions. ProofHub’s online discussions feature brings team leaders and members together on a common platform to discuss specific topics, share ideas, files and documents, add comments, mention people, proof designs at one place, using one team collaboration tool. You can subscribe people to discussion topics and choose with whom you want to discuss a particular topic. 

  • Group Chat Connects Leaders And Their Teams Quickly 

Quick, seamless communication is must for any feedback session, be it face-to-face or virtual. While video/audio conferencing are quite useful, leaders cannot use these all the time for communicating with team members. Group chat features in ProofHub allows leaders and their teams to exchange quick direct messages, add emojis to make conversations expressive, attach files, without needing to use a separate chat tool. 

  • Leaders Can Access Files With A Single Click During Feedback 

File Management Software in ProofHub offers a single place to store and organize all your crucial files and folders. Leaders can collaborate and share feedback on files in real time during remote feedback sessions within seconds and attach them to tasks, discussions, chats, and notes whenever needed.  

  • Leaders Can Adjust Plans With Gantt Charts

Plans are made and they can be changed any time with the help of Gantt Charts in ProofHub. Leaders can visualize, plan, and schedule tasks in a timeline view, set task dependencies, and drag and drop tasks as work changes and deadlines shift.  

  •  Leaders Can Manage Schedules At One Place With Project Scheduling Calendar

Leaders can manage all events, tasks, and milestones at one place. Project scheduling calendar in ProofHub lets leaders see all calendar data across all projects at one place and keep team members in the loop so that no one misses out on important activities. 

The Bottom Line

Changing times call for changing measures. As an increasing number of organizations switch to remote work, the way leaders communicate and give feedback remotely also need to be approached differently. 

Every point in feedback should be communicated clearly to every reportee and to achieve this goal, leaders should make sure that they’ve the right tools and practices in place to provide constructive virtual feedback sessions. 

Using a feature-rich and powerful collaboration tool like ProofHub can help both leaders and their reportees to exchange crucial feedback and clearly understand each other’s perspectives

Will you use ProofHub for upcoming remote feedback sessions? I’m sure you are on your way to start a free trial and get going!

 Sandeep Kashyap
Sandeep Kashyap

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on a lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, "Let’s go!" instead of "Go!" many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.


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