Flex Basics
February 23, 2024

How to Adjust Giving and Receiving Feedback for Remote and Hybrid Teams

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Deborah Kelson
VP of Marketing
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Whether you're a people manager or not, giving and receiving feedback is a critical skill. Feedback helps people get better at both the what and the how at work. When we share constructive feedback, we help people understand blind spots and where they shine.

While we know that feedback helps improve performance, build relationships, and increase productivity, we’re often reticent to give it (or receive it). The challenge is magnified when physical distance comes into play, potentially amplifying the awkwardness if we fail to adapt our approach to how, where, and when feedback is delivered.

In this article, we’ll explore five considerations for refining the art of giving and receiving feedback when part of a hybrid or remote team.

5 Feedback Strategies For When You're Not in the Same Room

1. Determine the Best Channel to Deliver the Feedback

If you can’t talk in person, consider the medium that suits the feedback you’ll give.

Email works well for feedback that isn’t time-sensitive and/or benefits from contemplation. Since it’s written and read asynchronously, it gives both the giver and receiver time to reflect upon the message instead of responding in the moment. Email also allows you to document examples to augment the feedback. Email is good for detailed explanations but is a terrible way to engage in conversation. There is some risk of misunderstanding with no intonation and the potential for delayed replies.

Phone is best when your feedback benefits from a conversation. It’s a better channel to ask questions and listen to the other person's words. It’s also less intense than a video call. If you’re giving tough feedback, which may elicit an emotional reaction, a voice-only call gives the recipient more privacy and grace.

Video call ensures that both people are focused on the conversation. While it’s easy to zone out or be distracted on a phone call, face-to-face video makes the other person hard to ignore. Depending on the giver's and the receiver’s temperament, you can decide whether the intense eye contact will create a sense of empathy or be perceived as antagonistic.

💡Tip: You can also ask employees how they would like to receive feedback to ensure your approach aligns with their preferences.

2. Always Ask If It’s a Good Time to Give Feedback Since You Don’t Have the Usual Cues You Have in an Office, Including Body Language

“Are you open to some feedback?” is a top five question to have in your toolbox. Feedback should only be given when it’s ready to be received. When you’re not in the same physical space as someone, it’s harder to know if they’re busy or having a tough day. By opening with a question about receptiveness, the other person can opt-in to talk now or ask to reschedule for another time. Extending an option to talk later can go a long way.

Similarly, consider whether it’s the right time in the project or the day for feedback. For example, sharing feedback at the 11th hour doesn’t give the person time to respond and adjust. Sharing feedback too early or too late in the day creates risks; it’s hard to wake up to constructive feedback, and the person might be too tired at the end of the day to handle the feedback well. Strive for well-balanced feedback in content and timing to ensure it’s effective and well-received.

3. Be Specific in Your Feedback

Platitudes like “Good job!” or “This isn’t good” aren’t helpful. Focus on being specific on exactly what the person did or didn’t do well, why you feel that way, and the implications of them doing the work well (or not well). That enables the person receiving the feedback to internalize why the feedback is important and can adjust their work or behavior accordingly.

4. Provide Time and Space for Follow-Up Questions

Feedback is a gift, especially when it opens space for dialogue. Allowing the recipient to ask additional questions ensures your message is heard accurately. Without time or permission to seek clarity, the message may get lost, leading to confusion or resentment. Since you may not be in the same physical space, specify what channel would be best for follow-up.

5. Remember That Constructive Feedback Doesn’t Always Have to Be Negative

Positive feedback goes a long way, especially when building relationships remotely. If every time you ask, “Are you open to some feedback?” invokes dread, rethink the feedback you’re giving. No one wants a compliment sandwich, but sharing what’s going well is just as important. The channel is less important for positive feedback, but the specificity and timeliness are still relevant. “I could tell you were prepared for the meeting and I learned so much from your research,” goes a lot further than a generic, “good job!”

Mastering the Art of Remote Feedback: Navigating the Challenges and Embracing Growth

In remote and hybrid teamwork, mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback is more critical than ever. Feedback serves as a guiding light, illuminating blind spots and celebrating areas of excellence.

In summary, you’ll be most successful in giving feedback if you:

  1. Pick the right feedback channels
  2. Give feedback at the right time
  3. Are specific in your feedback
  4. Provide time and space for follow up questions
  5. Balance positive and constructive feedback

As you navigate feedback in a dispersed team setting, always remember to assume positive intent, whether in person or remotely. While it can be hard to hear (or deliver), feedback is a gift that helps us all improve.

About the Author

Deborah Kelson

Deborah Kelson is a marketing leader who’s built brands at mission-driven companies for over two decades. She’s led teams at big companies and startups, including Walmart.com, Evite, LeapFrog, and most recently, Switchboard, where she’s the VP of Marketing. Kelson’s tech experience spans education, toys, eCommerce, mobile apps, subscription services, and B2B software as a service (SaaS). She's also the author and illustrator of the children’s book “Peanut Butter or Jelly.”

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