BLUF: Is IM an effective way to deliver feedback, particularly negative feedback?  How can I make feedback via IM more effective?

I'm in an organisation which is very IM-oriented.  For small, quick questions, people sitting next to each other will use IM to do so.  (Before you go "eeeew!", it's actually very effective in our situation, as it allows people to manage their interruptions and keeps the open-plan office quieter.  Urgent things, or those that require high-bandwidth, are done face-to-face.)

I tend to give feedback verbally where possible, but sometimes it is significantly more convenient to do so via IM (for all the same "interruption-avoidance" reasons I would use IM for anything else).  This arrangement works fairly well, but I've been wondering whether the effectiveness of my feedback is being compromised.  Has anyone been in a similar situation, and hence has a "long term" view of how things tend to work themselves out?

Two things have catalysed my thinking in this area: I haven't ventured into the world of full-blown negative feedback yet, either, and I'm planning on moving in that direction shortly.  I'm worried that delivering negative feedback via IM is likely to feel like much more of a slap-in-the-face than doing it in person, just because the "chuckle in the voice" won't be as apparent.

Also, we're looking at putting on some staff as remote workers, and in that situation IM (or even e-mail) is going to be the primary means of communication, without any ability to do real-time voice/face-to-face.  In this case, my options for providing feedback will be severely limited -- I don't want to "store up" feedback for a one-on-one by phone, nor do I wait to be calling someone just to say "well done!".

I'm sure that plenty of people have had this problem and have solved it -- even, as I understand it, Mark himself (as I understand it, Wendii and Mark are on separate continents).  I'd love to be able to learn from other people's mistakes, rather than have to make them all myself again.  All advice gratefully received.

gpeden's picture

 no - feedback via IM is not the same.  So your concern about negative feedback being received as a 'slap in the face' are well founded.Would you fire someone via IM (I hope not)? 

The effectiveness of face to face verbal feedback far outweighs any any perceived 'efficiencies' of IM or email.  Its not about the easy/convenient thing for you as a manager (or what you do or don't "want" to do) - its about doing the effective thing.



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doraemon's picture

First of all, I apologise if it's bad form resurrecting an old thread.

Here in 2020 with COVID-19 the world is a very different place. In my organisation we've been all WFH for months and IM (instant messaging) is how all communication happens, with exception of scheduled Zoom calls or the odd email.

I want to give timely feedback. I don't want to have to wait for the O3. Having a call just to deliver positive feedback seems over-the-top, but I'm definitely uneasy about using IM.

How have you tackled this?