Constructive criticism can be uncomfortable and stressful for both the giver and receiver. But these conversations are necessary – especially when it comes to maintaining healthy work relationships. With the amount of remote workers on the rise, how can you navigate tough conversations when you’re not face-to-face? Here are a few tips.
Mentally prepare a general agenda. This will help you focus the conversation and avoid getting sidetracked. It may help to jot down a few talking points, but try to keep them brief and to the point. The goal is to have a productive conversation, not to overwhelm your employee with a list of everything they’re doing wrong.
Clarity is key. The ability to read nonverbal cues is limited when you’re not in the same room, so it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible. Before you start that video call, you should know how you’re going to communicate in a way that leaves no room for misinterpretation. Be respectful and avoid sounding judgmental or condescending.
Reach out for advice. If you have access to an HR manager or a mentor, ask them for tips on how to handle this situation. Chances are they’ve experienced a similar scenario in the past.
Provide time for the associate to explain the situation from their perspective. This will help you understand their reasoning. It can be easy to jump to conclusions, but remember that there are usually two sides to every story.
Ask follow-up questions, such as “what prompted those actions?” or “do you feel like you had all the tools and resources you needed to properly handle that situation?” The benefit to asking these questions is twofold: you get to the root of the situation, and you can note how to better equip your team for future scenarios.
But, don’t forget the goal.
The goal of this conversation is to maintain a productive, positive work relationship – not to put your employee on the defensive. Entering the meeting with the mindset of finding a solution, rather than placing blame, will help set the tone for a more positive discussion.
You may find yourself in a scenario where you need to have a difficult remote-based conversation with the whole team. With multiple people on the call, it’s important to ensure the meeting is under control. Provide a time for questions so that others aren’t interrupting what needs to be said. Despite careful planning, the conversation might take some twists and turns. If the conversation begins to go off topic, bring everyone back to the root of the meeting and continue towards finding a solution.
End on a positive note – when the conversation comes to a close, thank your employee for their time and reaffirm your commitment to working together. If there’s a solution that needs to be implemented, provide a timeline and next steps.
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