Feedback Insecurities

Dear Dr. Jim,
My manager has been giving more regular feedback. I know she’s trying to be helpful and constructive. Why am I having such a tough time hearing it and feeling insecure?
– George*


Hi George,
That’s a big question! But let me take a shot at it. In what we call The Communication Loop™, there is the sender of the information, or the feedback. You might be getting a sense of, “it’s not so much what they are saying, but how they are saying it.”

You may have a sense that they are being punishing or they do it at a time when you are busy, without asking if you have time to talk now. Maybe the sender of the message is inaccurate or is not being clear.

Another thing, I see this often with managers, IS they actually talk too much. When somebody is sending a message about feedback it should be very succinct: “I notice that have been 3 days late on your financial report the last 2 months.” It is very short, and it describes a behavior and outcome. Then, they should be quiet and wait for you to respond.

Now, let’s discuss the receiver side. You may be busy and you feel like you are being interrupted. Maybe you don’t respect this manager so you have difficulties taking in what they have to say. You may get defensive because you think you’ve been doing a good job, and if that’s the case the two of you should have what we call a feedforward conversation to talk together about the issues and start moving toward finding better ways of doing things.

Another issue there could be is around some kind of expectation that originally was not set very clearly. If that’s the case it’s up to you to talk to you manager to get clear on the expectations.

It could even be that personally you often feel defensive and triggered. That’s an opportunity for you to work on your emotional intelligence and be more self-aware of your triggers.

But, I would guess that it is probably a two-way street, so it’s the both of you that need to work on this. It’s up to you, if you’re having a difficulty to have a conversation with your manager, assuming you have a pretty good relationship with them and are willing to experience your courage and look over the edge of fear to clear this up. Hope this helps.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed


Dear Dr. Jim,
I have an employee who often times when I bring up an issue to provide feedback deflects from the situation. What can I do about it?
– Trina*


Hi Trina,

We call this sidetracking, and it’s probably more common than you think. In fact, at Vivo Team we teach a whole session on it.

You must always do the following when dealing with sidetracks: Listen carefully to what the sidetracker is saying, but always come back to the goal. Work together to find a solution and follow up by reviewing the progress and providing feedback. Watch this helpful scenario (above) that we use in our training to see these steps in action! Hope this helps.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

The Bigger Picture

Dear Dr. Jim,
I’m feeling disconnected from the bigger picture of the organization, I imagine many others are as well. How can I better connect with my team and my work? What is it all for!?!
– Jeff*

Hi Jeff,
Great question! It’s always good to have clarity in terms of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how that contributes to the success of the organization. The first thing you could do is ask your manager one-on-one, or you suggest a team meeting to discuss how what we are doing—and why we are doing it—fits into the larger picture of the organization.

Explain that a better understanding and clearer picture will help you stay motivated and productive! Hopefully they will be willing to do that and you can get together virtually have a conversation that will get everybody clear and in the same boat, all moving in the same direction.
– Dr. Jim


Energy Booster

Dr. Jim,
Before covid we really thrived on each others energy and working closely together. With us now working remotely, I need to figure out how to get that energy back. What can I do?


Hi Beth,
We see this all the time when there is a major shift of some kind. This is a major shift for many people when they go from working in the office to working remotely. You’ll notice behavior changes, some people may have been really good at what they were doing before, but are maybe not so good now. Check in with them and ask how it’s going.

I also recommend that at least three times a week at an appointed time get together online and do a check in. Everybody goes around first and says what they are working on. You do another round of what are your stuck points or what am I frustrated about. Do a final round where everybody says a win they have had recently. So people are talking together and you are maintaining connection.

Another thing, it’s a bit radical, but you could for 1 hour maybe in the morning and one in the afternoon, everyone come up on screen and work together at the same time. You can see everyone moving around and doing their thing, you can have a little chat, just like in your office. There’s not much difference in many respects, except it’s virtual and some people may need time to get used to that. Again, it increases the connection and it can really help people in terms of stress and anxiety just to know people are there with them, even if it’s electronically.

Give it a shot, watch for changes in behavior and respond to help them get better, and encourage people who are doing well.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed


Dr. Jim,
It looks like Covid-19 will continue to have an impact for some time. How can I best equip my leaders to handle all the continued changes and adaptations necessary?


Hi Trevor,
Number one is to stay in touch, keep up-to-date. Ask what’s working well, what needs improvement, what might we be missing?

Also, make sure to meet regularly in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, on video, and rotate the chairthat is the person usually responsible to organize those things. The reason for doing that is, as people are out of the office for a longer period of time, the further we get away from the centre, the fuzzier things get. So, we have a group of managers working remotely, then we have the managers people working remotely, so they all have to make sure to stay in contact.

Another tip is to keep the Zoom meetings where you are updating your team, to a maximum of 15 minutes, no longer. Otherwise people are going to feel that Zoom fatigue thing.

Also, make sure to look for, in your managers, how well they are dealing with the situation. Some people are going to like it, and some are going to struggle with it.

Finally, be aware of your managers who are working too much. Taking breaks is really important because we don’t want people to burnout. Hopefully his helps. Covid is going to continue for a while, we just need to adjust to it.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Feeling Fatigued

Dear Dr. Jim,
What is Zoom fatigue, because I think I may have it. What can I do about it?


Hi Barb,

So called Zoom fatigue, from my perspective, is a result of all the things that already weren’t working well in face-to-face meetings. When we moved in-person meetings to Zoom or Microsoft Team, what happened is people didn’t adjust to the new format. Some people were against being on camera (which I think is a huge mistake) and it revealed that many meetings were not very well run to begin with. Here are some tips:

1. In online meetings it’s important to connect with each other. Start off everybody with something like “What’s going on with you?” or “How are you coming to this meeting?”

2. It is absolutely crucial that an agenda be made and sent out to everybody 24 hours before. Ensure that you move through the agenda and that everybody helps to move it along.

3. Some people like to talk a lot and some people don’t ever speak up. It’s everyone’s responsibility to curtail that. The organizer can and should call on people in order to keep a balanced forum.

4. Do a check in every once in a while by asking what’s going well and what needs improvement to help keep your team focused and on target.

There’s a lot more to it, like the whole technical part of running a meeting so that people aren’t distracted by bad camera angles or lighting. Fixing those elements will help, too. It is a difficult thing to get used to, you might even want to take some training on how to run online meetings well. -Dr. Jim

-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Connection = Cohesion

Dear Dr. Jim,
How can I build a cohesive team when some are back in the office and some are still (and maybe will continue to be) working from home?


Hi Gwen,
We at Vivo Team recommend that at least three times a week virtually get together for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your team, and do a check in.

What you do is a quick go round, every says what they are working on or what their priority is for the day. Then you do another round where everyone says a stuck point, what’s getting in the way of getting stuff done today. Lastly, every goes around and says a win they have had.

I would also encourage people who are used to working closely with each other in the office, that both of you go on Zoom, and you can actually be side-by-side if that’s something you need.

The other thing to do is to make sure that you have, a least every quarter, a 15 minute meeting with your manager. What you are going to talk about is: What you have accomplished in the last thee months; What you still need to accomplish; and one item that you would like to work on to improve your professional development.

Sometimes what people are doing as well, is on a Friday having a virtual get together to just chat and talk about what’s going on. Once people get used to it you’ll feel quite connected, quite cohesive. It doesn’t have to be a barrier if you have discipline. Discipline is the key.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

You’re Yelling

Dr. Jim,
My boss is a yeller. I don’t think he is aware that he frequently raises his voice. I find I really shut down around him. What should I do?


Hello Brandi,
This is a complicated issue, and I would like to have more details, but I will respond to you generally. If I were in your shoes, I would try saying to him “when you yell at me like that I can’t focus and I just shut down.” Don’t say anything more than that, wait for a response.

I know you might be shaking in your boots because you don’t know how he will react. If he starts yelling at you, you should remove yourself from the room and find someone in HR or someone else who you can have a conversation with to help get some resolution.

If he responds, “oh sorry, I don’t realize I am yelling.” Then you can say, “what would be really helpful for me is if you could tone down your voice so I can hear and focus to be able to respond to you.” The best of luck…thank you!
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Developing Leaders

Dr. Jim,
I promoted our communications coordinator to manager. She is skilled and experienced, but her direct reports are still coming to me instead of her. How do I help her to assert herself?


Hi Will,
Your statement, she is skilled and experienced–yes, skilled and experienced in communications as a coordinator, but not skilled and experienced as a leader or manager.

So, your job is to help her learn how to become a better manager. If she is not developed she’s going to become what we call an accidental leader and will likely not do well in the role. Here’s what you do:

  • Find some articles for her to read about leadership and management.
  • Have weekly meeting with her to talk about what’s going well in her new job and responsibilities, what needs improvement, and what we might be missing.
  • Finally, give her some encouragement.

The other thing that’s really important is if her direct reports keep coming to you, direct them back to her. I am assuming that you have been through significant leadership or management training and you know how to do these things.

If you too are an accidental leader who has been promoted but not developed, that’s a problem. Come do one of our workshops!
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Feeling Nervous

Hey Dr. Jim,
My office is opening up, but I feel nervous about going back. I don’t know how to bring it up with my manager. Many people are excited to go back!


Hi Leo,
If I were in your shoes I would definitely talk to my manager about this. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that face-to-face try sending an an email or a note.

You mentioned other people are excited about going back. Identify a couple of people that you feel close with and trust and have a conversation with them about their enthusiasm. You actually may find in those conversations, they also have some concerns about returning. You could also, in that connection, over come some of your anxiety about returning just by simply by connecting with others.

I would also want to know what the plan is. How are we going to do this? What is the set up going to be? Am I going to be confident that, as much as possible, I’m going to be protected.

Things will change over time, but it’s really important to connect with others around this rather than retreat. Best to you.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed