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How the remote work environment is affecting your career

remote work environment

This guy slept through manager training

Many receive feedback,

but only the wise profit from it. Harper Lee

Interactions with managers have dropped significantly in the remote work environment. Let’s face it, Zoom and chat are not as effective as a face to face interaction.

Not only do we miss a lot of the body language when communicating online, but we also miss the spontaneity of casual conversations. Popping into your manager’s office for a quick chat and water cooler conversations are no longer available in the remote work environment. Both of these add to the richness and frequency of our conversations and both contribute to the feedback loop.

Remote employees are communicating less with their managers

For many employees, the remote working environment has lessened the quantity and quality of manager-employee communication.

To add insult to injury, the remote communication increases the chances of miscommunication and rarely is the miscommunication in a positive. When there is a misunderstanding, as employees, we are usually left wondering:

  • “WhereTF did that come from, I am trying to do a good job here!”
  • “Give me a freaking break, I am busting my ass off here and this is how I am treated?”
  • “Are you kidding????”

Managing the feedback loop with your manager

It is your career, not your managers. These are your feelings that are being affected, not your managers.  Like any relationship, it’s completely appropriate to be proactive with your employee-manager feedback loop. just remember, “It’s not what we say, it’s how we say it.”

Why feedback is critical to your career

Even in a remote working environment, we can still earn more money, be promoted, or be given a larger account. Regardless of what you want out of your career, we need to improve our game if we want to progress to the next level. Staying stagnate in your skill sets (personal, professional, and technical), makes it hard for your manager to justify more money or a promotion to the VP of the department.  You didn’t think that the only person you had to convince about your future was your immediate manager, did you?

If you don’t know what part of your game to improve, how to improve, and specifically what is important to your manager, you are not going to receive more of anything. This is especially important in a remote work environment. I can improve in area X, but if area X isn’t important to my manager, this improvement is worthless. If my manager wants me to improve in area Y, that is what counts. It is my career, not my managers. It is my responsibility to create the talk track with my manager and learn what is important to him or her.

No feedback is the worst feedback. No news is not good news

Yes, I would like to have encouraging and productive feedback, but at the end of the day, I just want the feedback regardless of the form. As an HR ProAm, there is nothing worse to me than a manager who doesn’t have the courage to provide feedback for improvement.

If you ask your manager for feedback and all you hear is, “You are doing great, don’t worry, I love your work”, be worried. Be very worried. You may be doing a solid job, but again, if we don’t continually raise our game, it is hard to justify more money or opportunity. Many managers just don’t have the courage to give negative feedback.

Two messages from HRNasty

  1. Harshly delivered feedback is better than no feedback
  2. If we don’t update our manager on our preferred feedback messaging, we shouldn’t expect our manager to change their methods. They probably don’t realize the impact they are having.

Very few managers want to have a conversation they think may become confrontational

Working in HR, I have been involved in many conversations between a manager and an employee. It is very common for the manager to think they provided feedback, but it was so sugar-coated, the feedback wasn’t heard or taken as critical feedback for improvement.

Harshly delivered feedback is better than no feedback. Personally, would much rather have harsh and spiteful sounding feedback over no feedback or “You are doing a great job”. Next time you feel your manager is overly critical, be thankful that you at least know where they stand on your performance. You at least you are gaining insight into what you can do to improve your game in their eyes.

Listen with the intent to understand,

not to respond.  Stephen Covey

Regardless of how it is delivered, feedback is a gift. We don’t have to accept the feedback. We have the option to accept it or return it. But without feedback, we don’t know what our manager is thinking until the annual review or promotions are awarded. And at this point, it is too late.

If you think your manager is crapping on you, think about practicing some verbal judo. You can use their negative energy against them.  Employees may think your manager is pissing you, but they are actually helping your career when they get in your face and yell about your areas of improvement. You know exactly where they stand when they “lose it”. Fix what they are screaming about and you have taken away their power. 

Explain to your manager how you learn and improve

Sharing how your manager’s feedback affects you is the first step.

Most managers don’t realize they are being assholes. Believe it not, most managers don’t wake up thinking “I am going to make Johnny’s life miserable today”. I have heard many managers state, “I swear, Johnny must wake up every morning thinking about how he can make my life miserable”.

Be proactive and explain how you learn and improve. A few examples below:

  • “Manager, I am going to give a presentation this afternoon. Could you do me a favor and share with me what you liked about the presentation and ONE thing I could try differently next time?”
  • “Manager, I improve the most when I am given feedback and then given a few days to reflect and then talk about the feedback. I usually tend to get defensive at the moment when I am given feedback, so I end up not saying anything. Next time you have some feedback for me, can we set aside some time a few days later to discuss the talking points?”

Retrain your manager

The above will begin to train our manager to share with us what they value and how to improve instead of telling us how we F’d it up. We want to make sure we continue to do what they appreciate. We want feedback for improvement vs. a lecture on where we messed up.

If you are a manager, presenting feedback as an area of improvement vs. a mistake can take the sting out of the conversation. 

“I really liked your presentation, here is one idea you might consider next time.”

The above talking points will begin to change the relationship between manager and employee. Trust me, 98 employees out of 100 don’t have these conversations, so when they take place, these conversations are perceived as very mature and pro-active moves.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Of course, we would hope our manager would deliver motivating feedback. That only makes sense. But for a number of reasons, this doesn’t always work out.

  • Most managers were not promoted because they are good managers. They were promoted because they are good at the technical requirements of their job.
  • Many managers haven’t been given training on how to deliver feedback. Most companies don’t have manager training sessions.
  • If a manager has attended training, most pieces of training are lecture vs. interactive. A facilitator or your manager’s manager just delivered sat them down for a few minutes. There wasn’t any practical practice or role-plays.
  • Feedback in stressful times can come across very differently than the feedback provided in great times when goals are being met. The current economy where everyone is in a remote work environment can be stressful for some.

Assume good intent. If your manager hasn’t been trained, they probably just don’t know what they don’t know. We need to take some responsibility for our careers. In a remote workplace environment, we need to be proactive. Help your manager help your career.


See you at the after-party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Check out this related post which explains why most managers just want to give kudos:

How your manager is setting you up for failure. How to encourage them to tell us what we NEED to hear.