Jan 24, 2022 | Leadership

For two years, managers have been waiting for ‘the day’ when everyone goes back to the office. The expectation, back in early 2020, was that once the pandemic had ended, we’d all collectively resume our pre-Covid patterns of office-based work.

During that period of collective pause, managers leaned on the side of giving grace while their direct reports who were able to work from home (WFH) navigated the complexities and uncertainties of pandemic life. “My meeting link isn’t working,” “I’m recovering from my booster shot,” and “It’s not going to be a camera day for me today,” became familiar and forgivable lapses in engagement.

But, with the emergence of Covid-19 variants like Omicron, managers have abandoned the idea that there ever will be a day when we’re all permanently back at our office desks. That also means that critical performance feedback cannot be postponed and must be given remotely.

Giving critical feedback is one of the most challenging responsibilities of a manager. If you’re a manager whose team is working remotely, here are some key steps to update your approach to giving critical feedback in the WFH world:

1. Lead with curiosity. Ask open-ended questions to get your employee’s perception of their performance before expressing yours.

2. Point out their value. Show specific appreciation before laying out criticism. They’ll be more likely to be receptive to your feedback if they trust that you value them.

3. Partner for performance. State your positive intentions. Something as simple as “I’m in your corner” can go a long way.

4. Clarify and contrast. “I’m saying X, but I’m not saying Y.”

5. Close with their summary. Ask your employee to state their key takeaways from the conversation.

We’re all under long haul stress from the pandemic. Some of us are dealing with it better than others. Take care to deliver your feedback with clarity and sensitivity to help your team member focus on the reality of how their performance needs to improve, even in a remote environment.

Question: What are some ways you can update your approach to giving feedback in a WFH world?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

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