Working remotely by definition means you aren’t in constant contact with your manager or the members of your team. Sometimes, let’s face it, that’s a blessing, and the whole reason you work from home. But as social animals, we all need some contact with the outside world in order to do good work and build the social relationships that make work effective and pleasant.
One of the biggest complaints teleworkers have is that they don’t get enough feedback on their work…unless something goes wrong, then they get all they can handle. When most of us think of the term “feedback,” we usually think it’s corrective, and we assume it should come from the boss. Neither of these are necessarily true.
Our old friends at Merriam Webster say that feedback is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.” Notice that while it is often corrective, the primary word there is “evaluative.” We use feedback to not only to know when something is wrong and correct it, but to understand when it’s working, how well it’s working, and if we should continue doing that thing or change course.
But isn’t giving that feedback the boss’s job? After all, who are we to tell someone else how they’re doing their job or offer advice?
Here are some of the reasons teammates should help each other out by offering feedback:
Feedback builds relationships.
We all like to hear we are doing a good job, or that something we’ve done was appreciated. As a teammate, we often lack a “good reason,” to reach out to our peers. A quick email or Slack message to let them know that point they made on the meeting was really important to you, or you thought they did a great job of getting you the information you needed to complete that project takes very little time and has big results. It’s so much easier to build positive energy between people if the only communication they have isn’t a request.
The more specific, the better.
Information is most useful when it’s clear and specific. Hearing, “good job,” is nice. “I like the way you _____” is both more specific and useful to the receiver. This is also a way of letting your teammates know what’s important to you personally. “Thanks for the information,” is a good thing. Telling them, “I really appreciate the level of detail you gave me,” is another. In the future, they’ll know how best to get you what you need.
Negative feedback isn’t always negative.
“Attagirls” and “Attaboys” are easy. It is often uncomfortable to give someone feedback if you don’t have positional authority. You’re not their boss, so is it your place to say anything? But offering someone advice can be a gift to them as well. “I’ve worked with Bob a long time, and I know that he actually prefers you deliver that kind of information to him privately than in meetings,” can save someone a lot of trouble and make their life easier. Do you think they will appreciate that piece of feedback?
Remember to frame your comments.
People hear feedback and advice through their own ears, and how they receive it usually depends on how we frame the information. Normally, teammates filter what they hear through positional authority (who are you to tell them this?) expertise, (do you have more or less experience or knowledge than they do?) and your existing relationship (are we close? Do you trust me? Do I even know who you are?) When offering feedback, especially if it might not be completely positive, try to position it appropriately. “I know you’re new to the account, so let me share some background…” can help overcome the lack of positional authority. “When I joined the team, I did the same thing and here’s what I’ve found works better with Josephine, if you want her to take your data seriously,” can help build relationships over time.
Peer to peer feedback is not done to make you look smarter or better, but to help them—and as a result the whole team—improve. Phrasing it with the team and the other person in mind will help us be more comfortable and offer feedback more often.
This is just one thing that can help you go from merely having a common boss to being a great remote teammate who everyone values. If that’s a goal you’d like to achieve, check out our new learning program, 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.