Avoid these Mistakes When Communicating in a Virtual Culture

Public Speaking. It’s the #1 fear listed by many people–over flying, dying, and just about anything else. So many of us just hate the thought of getting up in front of people because we’re afraid we’ll make a mistake, say the wrong thing, and damage our reputation.


It’s a fear that keeps many people with great things to say on the seat instead of on the stage. However, it’s also that fear that means, when we are asked to address a group, we take it very, very seriously.


Which begs the question–what if we did the same for communication settings that don’t feel as high-pressure? Managing staff in a vulture culture means doing a lot of communicating. But since the majority of it is neither public or even face-to-face, we often let our guard down and don’t do as good of a job as we could or should.


The upshot? Productivity isn’t what it could be, and neither are working relationships. However, we all know that your business and your virtual assistant both deserve better!


Here are four mistakes we see and some ways to keep from making them.

Choosing the wrong method to convey your message.

There’s no one-size-all solution for virtual communication these days, and choosing the wrong one can send a message of its own about how urgent or important what you have to say is. It can also very much affect how it will be received. Consider this as you set out to communicate.


Have a brilliant idea for a long-term project at 4 am? That’s exactly what Slack is for, since it can wait to be read and discussed. Lots of information to disseminate to your virtual assistant? Thank you, email! Need immediate feedback? There’s nothing like a phone call. Brainstorming session? Zoom and Skype let you introduce tone and facial expression into the mix. Whatever the end goal is, there’s a communication method to support it. Figure that out, and everyone’s time is maximized.


Assuming your virtual assistant knows how your brain works.

This a hard one–of course you’re the boss and you don’t have a lot of time. But we’re not talking about a need to contemplate how your virtual worker is feeling today. What we’re talking about is setting your employee up to succeed at whatever task you need them to do. Assuming your virtual assistant wants to please you (which they do–paychecks and happy bosses are important!), they’ll need to have all the right information and tools to get the job done. Don’t assume they know what’s in your brain–you’re going to have to make sure you’ve stated it all and, ideally, give them a chance to ask questions. And don’t worry– this is a skill that gets easier over time and as you develop a relationship with your virtual assistant.


Correcting poorly and being light on acknowledgment.

Your virtual assistant isn’t sitting just outside your door, but it’s still so important to be mindful that they are human. Just like you might measure your words and try to get feedback before taking a necessary correction to a person in your physical office, it’s important to consider how best to give criticism to a virtual employee. Will it come off better in a thoughtful email? Would a phone call or even a Skype call be more effective? These are real considerations in the virtual world.


On the other end of the equation, it can be difficult to work day in and day out and not hear any feedback from your boss at all. Submitting work and receiving new instructions without hearing a “Nice job,” “This is exactly what I was looking for,” or even a “Hey, thanks, I got the documents” can, for lack of a better term, mess with your head. While you may be perfectly satisfied with the work, not having any interaction can leave an employee unnecessarily wondering where they stand. A simple thank you and a well-timed word of praise can go a very long way to bridge the inherent gaps in virtual culture.


Not being aware of your tone.


It’s hard to take a step back from everything you have to do to think about how an email or other messages –especially written ones– will come across. You have something you need to say and your calendar is full. Who has time to stop and make sure it sounds just so? No one, really. But good managers realize that dealing with people takes a certain investment of time that pays off in employee productivity and loyalty in the long term. And it is, generally, a bigger investment up front. As you get to know your virtual assistant, you will both understand more how the other works. Therefore, spending time in the beginning to both ask and answer questions is worth it.


No matter how long you’ve been working with someone, though, it’s always best to make sure the tone of what you are saying is expressed well. The easiest way to do this? Read what you have written back, out loud. Just one read-through may help you catch changes that will help what you really want to say come through.



Public speaking may never be your forté, and that’s just fine. However, if you intend to grow your business and your staff, the more important communication to sweat may be the one-on-one kind. Master it and you’ll have the loyalty of your staff both in person and through the screen.

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