In this new world of Zoom calls and Slack chats, there’s becoming an even bigger disconnect from getting the proper feedback you need from your boss. Below we have 2 major issues that we face in virtual communication so keep reading for some great solutions to better your work relationships.
There are two different situations we face, one is having a hands-off job that puts your feet to the fire to figure things out with little to no explanation. For some people, this can feel isolating and for some, this can be liberating. For those of you that find it difficult, you may be asking yourself how to approach this conversation through your next Zoom meeting.
The second scenario is from a leadership perspective, say you have an employee who is unable to meet the goals they set before starting working from home. How do you remain understanding of this life-altering switch while also communicating that you still need the work to be done? After all, you’re running a business and you’re struggling too from this pandemic.
Why did I bring you these questions? Well, they both address the same basic topic, something many of us are struggling with right now: giving feedback. There are two challenges here, one is adapting to the still relatively new (to us) technology of videoconferencing and making it as seamless as possible for you to use it. The second is giving the feedback itself, whether it’s for your manager or for someone who works for you.
For the first one, ask yourself: do I make things difficult? Think about it- do you have a handle on not interrupting/waiting for your turn to speak? (This can be challenging, and mistakes are bound to happen, which is ok!) Are you eating? Paying attention?
Other things to consider: your posture (sit up straight); minimize distractions around you (I try putting my cats in another room); making eye contact and not gazing off somewhere in the distance (or at other tabs on your computer). In fact, do yourself a favor and shut down anything else that might be going on in the background so you can focus 100 percent on your virtual meeting. Avoid the pull to multitask, we all have it especially if you’re not invested in the topic. On video chat, it’s actually pretty obvious when you’re not paying attention.
If video-chatting is super new to you, or you’re especially nervous, try doing it a few times with a friend or family member before you have a work meeting. Note: check your internet connection because having a tough conversation when your tech isn’t working correctly is very frustrating to everyone.
Once you’ve got those things down, you can focus more on how to get your point across without getting lost in the mix. Next, we will lay down some solutions.
1. Jot down what you want to say
What are you struggling with? What solution do you want to come to?
In the case of question one, it’s best to request a one-on-one meeting so that you can ask questions and get responses—in fact, you want to give feedback to your manager so that your manager will in return give you feedback. You want to open up the channels of conversation so you feel less isolated. Spend some time imagining the best-case scenario: Maybe this is a weekly meeting or a daily one, or maybe it has to only happen once or twice for you to get the information and support you need. Just because your manager isn’t a hands-on kind of person doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help.
Heck, maybe even write out a script for what you want to say.
In the case of question two, you’re struggling to figure out how to address performance in a challenging time. Your first step would be to open up an honest conversation with this employee about the challenges they’re facing (seek to understand), and how you might help them do their work better and hit the necessary goals. Also, think about what the ideal performance looks like to you. Then set your expectations with the fact that we are living through a global pandemic and everyone is doing something new. This is an opportunity not only to share feedback with your employee but also to listen as well, and then reevaluate goals and the business from there.
2. Schedule a time for your Zoom call
These conversations are best when they are scheduled so that you know that person can give you 100% of their attention. Definitely don’t give feedback in a group chat setting. Make sure it’s just the two of you and layout the purpose for the conversation ahead of time.
In the case of question one, you can ask your manager to have a conversation with you about your desire for more regular feedback at this time. Also, you might approach it as, “Let’s set up a call to talk about how you’re feeling about your current workload and goals.” When you’re on the call, re-explain your expectations of what needs to be done and then ask them how things are going before putting them on the spot.
3. Be supportive and clear
Be careful about pouring on so much positivity that you hide your true intentions and the person you’re talking to walks away without knowing what you want, or worse, thinking that everything’s ok. At the same time, don’t shame them or criticize them.
Experts recommend using “I” instead of “you” statements so that what you say feels less like a personal attack on the person you’re giving feedback to. (For instance, “I see you’re not hitting the goals we set out, can we talk about that?” as opposed to “You are doing it all wrong,” or “I’m feeling very isolated and it would help to schedule some regular check-ins” as opposed to “You never explain anything to me and it’s making me do worse.”)
It’s not what your manager or employee is doing wrong, it’s about what you need to do to help them do better—so that both of you can succeed as much as possible.
4. Make sure to listen
Feedback isn’t just about you doing the talking, it means letting the other person as well. Make eye contact and don’t get distracted by an email, your partner, or your phone—and listen. They may have something going on in their life that you hadn’t realized, or maybe they’ve noticed the issue and have suggestions of their own. In any other conversation, distractions may be ok but this one is on the serious side. When these staps are taken, this conversation can lead to a stronger working relationship.
5. Make an agenda
You don’t want these conversations to go too long and you also don’t want to distract with too many side conversations. Tear off the bandage so you don’t appear as suddenly coming out of the blue to address an issue from a year ago.
6. Schedule a follow-up
Before you end the call, plan a date after your initial call to chat again and see how things are going. You may want to implement regular feedback sessions, which in the case of both questions sounds like a good idea, especially now. Feedback, after all, isn’t just one and done, what you’re doing is setting up the foundation for conversations down the line that continue to help you build your relationship and, your business, for the future.