6 min read

How to give negative feedback to remote workers: 6 Do's and Dont's

How to give negative feedback to remote workers: 6 Do's and Dont's

Want to learn how to give negative feedback to remote workers? This guide is for you. In this post, you’ll learn what you should do and what you shouldn’t when giving negative feedback to remote workers.

Why provide negative feedback?

Negative feedback makes people aware of their shortcomings. They can then better themselves and boost their personal growth. This will improve your team and company’s performance. Plus, it gives you a chance to make difficult conversations and establish trust.

Providing constructive criticism can be the difference between mediocre and high-performing remote teams. How do you do that?

Here are the 6 do's and don’ts to guide you:

Pro Tip: Use the video for providing negative feedback. Here’s why:

- Face-to-face conversations help in discussing the problem in detail.
- You can understand the person’s body language.
- It provides the ability to ask quick back and forth questions.
- You can speak in a soft tone and have a positive facial expression to instill calmness in the other person.
- It improves the clarity and effectiveness of the message. 

The Do's:

1. State the goal of the feedback

State the goal of the feedback
State the goal of the feedback

Create a safe environment when providing negative feedback. Make it clear to the person that the objective isn’t to humiliate them. It’s to help them identify their weaknesses and work on them.

Explain how implementing the feedback will boost their work performance and personal growth. Remind the person that the feedback ties with the team and the company’s progress.

2. Listen to your employee

Feedback shouldn’t be a one-way communication. Give your employee the time to clarify their situation. Maybe the work was poor because they are facing mental issues. Or someone didn’t do their part, which delayed the submission.

So, first, listen. Listening gives you a better situational awareness of your employee. You’ll understand what are the factors affecting their work performance.

This will help you construct your feedback better and offer helpful solutions. Plus, it builds trust and the employee will be more likely to listen to the feedback and implement it.  

3. Provide relevant context

Offer background information to help the person better understand what you’re talking about. Highlight specific instances to explain what’s the mistake. It will then make sense to the employee. Tell them how continuing the mistake will halt their progress.

5. Emphasize what you don’t mean

Many people when listening to negative feedback take different conclusions. You could mean X, but they would understand Y. Example: If you’re saying, “Stop spending time on this activity.” They infer it as, “You’re not capable of doing this.”

So be intentional about what you don’t mean. You can say, “What I mean is invest your time in high output tasks like strategic planning. What I don’t mean is that you don’t have the talent to do this.”

4. Discuss the action plan together

Discuss the action plan together
Discuss the action plan together

Come into the meeting with an action plan for the employee to follow. Discuss it with them. Fix what the next steps should be to correct the negatives. Set step-by-step goals and tell them how you’ll review their progress.

Plus, provide relevant resources that will help them in implementing the action plan. It could be a course, tool, or connecting them with someone.

6. Ask the person to state their learnings

Psychologist Therese Huston recommends asking, “What are your top 3 takeaways?” before ending the conversation. This is to make sure the person is aware of what to do next and there’s no room for misunderstandings.

If the takeaways are different from what you meant to say, correct them. Be kind and empathetic when repeating your statements.

Pro Tip: Follow-up with the employee to check their progress. 

The Don’ts:

1. Don’t do random meetings

Avoid random meetings
Avoid random meetings

Scheduling random meetings without prior notice can cause anxiety. The employee will feel restless about it until the meeting is done. They won’t be able to focus on work. So avoid random meetings.

Update the employee about the meeting 1-2 days in advance. Touch on the agenda of the meeting. So they know what it is about. Don’t play the guessing game because it causes mini panic attacks (you know what I mean).

Make sure you don’t delay the meeting. If you said, you’ll take the meeting the next day, ensure you do it. Block all your tasks to address the issue.

2. Don’t criticize in public

Nobody likes being singled out in front of everyone. It can be a stressful experience for the employee and will lower their morale. Plus, their focus will be more on leaving the meeting soon, not on what you’re saying.

What’s the use of such feedback? It’s a lose-lose.

Negative feedback meetings should be 1-on-1. This way, the employees will be more open to sharing their thoughts and listening to you. It will result in a healthy back-and-forth conversation. The employee will leave the meeting motivated to perform better.

3. Don’t beat around the bush

Many try to avoid difficult conversations because they don’t want to hurt or embarrass people. So they say things indirectly, making it difficult for the person to understand what they mean. Don’t be that person.

Keep in mind that providing negative feedback is in the best interest of other people. This will help them discover their blind spots and correct them.

But, if in a meeting, you keep ignoring the issue, they will think the meeting is on another topic. And then when all of a sudden you start criticizing them, it will develop mistrust between both of you.

The solution is to get to the point fast. Be clear about what’s the negative issue you want to address. Explain the problem and decide the next steps.

4. Don’t give a feedback sandwich

Don’t give a feedback sandwich

A feedback sandwich is a practice of providing negative feedback stuffed between two positive compliments. It goes like this: you say something positive; then say the actual negative statement; finally close it off with a positive compliment.

Managers use this method to soften their criticism and reduce discomfort for the receiver. They think this way it’s easier for the listener to accept the negative feedback. But, what it does is erode trust and is manipulative.

After 2-3 times, the employee will understand the positive claims aren’t genuine. That you said it because you wanted to criticize them. The next time, even if you provide a genuine appreciation, they’ll think it’s deceptive. And you can’t blame them for this.

The solution is to get rid of this method. Be transparent. Don’t hesitate to provide negative feedback. Most employees will prefer an honest assessment rather than a false statement. Explain to them your objective and work out a solution together.

5. Don’t attack the person

When providing negative feedback, comment on the person’s tasks and contributions. Don’t indulge in personal attacks. Example: commenting on race, religion, or personal perspectives on delicate subjects.

Focus on attacking the problem. Review how it should have been done and what improvement steps should be taken. Evaluate the person on a merit basis. Don’t let personal biases cloud your judgment.

6. Don’t let negative bias direct you

Negative bias is focusing more on the negative viewpoints than the positive factors. When providing negative feedback, it’s tempting to highlight the 1 negative of the person and reject the other 9 positives. Don’t.

Remember, your employees are humans. Mistakes happen. But, this shouldn’t become a contest to score points. Or impose your authority.

I’m not telling you to ignore poor work performance. You should address them. But, do it so in a welcoming way. That ensures the person that it’s OK to make mistakes, but they should learn from them and correct it soon.

Else, your employees will fear making independent decisions and making mistakes. This will block new ideas. You don’t want to hire smart people, and stop them from implementing their smart ideas, do you?

Giving feedback is key to a productive and progressive remote workforce

It may seem difficult to provide negative feedback to remote workers. But, with proper planning and the right template, you can set a culture of providing healthy negative feedback. This will help your team boost their personal growth and 10X your company’s progress.

Use the above 6 dos and don’ts to get started.