How To Provide Clear Feedback Via Video

Getting feedback over video or on the phone can feel a bit daunting. You might not be able to communicate as clearly, or the recipient might misunderstand what you’re saying. Without being 1-1, you’re missing out on key things like proper eye contact, body language and maybe even the odd important word thanks to your temperamental internet connection.

What you heard: “I think that candidate’s a great fit for the role.”

What they said: “I don’t think that candidate’s a great fit for the role.”

Why is constructive criticism important?

Being constructive with your feedback is when you are honest but professional with the key aim of achieving a positive outcome. This feedback could be suggestions or advice that will be useful for their future work or performance. The feedback doesn’t have to only be to identify some improvements to their work. It could also be about attitude, behaviour, basically anything professionally acceptable.

If you’re not providing constructive feedback or praise, you’re most likely providing negative or destructive feedback. Destructive feedback isn’t given with the employee or organisation's best interests at heart. There’s a lack of good intention and in extreme cases can include name calling and personal insults. This can affect performance, morale and even mental health. Let's leave the “cruel to be kind” out of the workplace, eh? Constructive criticism, on the other hand, supports and nurtures staff, improves their confidence and clarifies expectations of the role.

In case you’re still wondering what type of feedback you give, let's take an old-school teen magazine-style quiz, shall we?

Q1: You’re a manager and you’ve noticed they’re making a lot of spelling mistakes. What’s your response?

  1. You set a quick meeting when you both have time, ask how they’re getting on and if anything is getting in the way of their work. You’re asking since you’ve noticed some mistakes falling through the cracks which is unusual for them and if there’s maybe something going on - maybe too much on their plate - taking their attention away from work.
  2. Call a team meeting or send a team-wide email pointing out that someone has been making mistakes and they need to have more attention to detail.
  3. The second you see another mistake you say “did you even go to school? Are you bloody stupid or just sh*t at your job?”

Q2: After returning to the office after working from home, you notice an employee’s attitude has changed and he/she doesn’t seem happy to be at work. You:

  1. Speak to them privately and let them know you’re grateful for their time. You mention you’ve noticed they don’t seem as happy at work lately. Ask how they’re feeling and if there is anything you can do to help them have a better experience.
  2. Call them out during a private conversation saying indirectly that they look or seem tired.
  3. Tell them if they don’t want to be here they can go home, permanently. You’re not paying them to make you dread being around them.

If you answered A (and I’m seriously hoping you all did), congrats! You’re providing some constructive feedback and being professional but also nurturing. B is borderline and you could improve and C is blatant destructive feedback.

So now onto where video fits in. Is it possible to prevent miscommunication and give clear, meaningful feedback over video? Of course, it is! Video software for recruiters or meetings when you’re remote working is great for building relationships, but here are a few tips for when you have to take more serious meetings via video and are maybe feeling a little awkward about having to provide constructive feedback online:

Schedule a good time (no, not 4:45 pm on a Friday)

Put in a reasonable amount of time for to you discuss your concerns but also enough time to chat about what the potential resolution is. By giving your employee time to take in what you’re saying and giving them time to discuss potential causes and solutions, it will make them feel more valued and respected.

Leave the sandwiches for lunch, not feedback

You don’t have the luxury of them reading your tone or body language properly, so the “compliment sandwich” - where you stuff the criticism between lots of praise - isn’t effective when it blurs the lines in what you’re trying to say. The key is to be stern and clear but supporting and understanding at the same time. 

Keep in contact, but don’t bombard them

Schedule a follow-up meeting or have more regular 1-1s. Make it clear this isn’t a punishment or micro-managing. It’s supporting your staff but also keeps you up to date with everything going on. 

If you’ve been reluctant to have these sorts of meetings over video, go on and give it a try. Just make sure you plan accordingly, and act just as you would if the meeting were in person.

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