Managers are stress absorbers for their organizations and employees alike. That's because performance reviews, in particular, require them to stand in judgment of another, which is uncomfortable at best and can cause a lot of stress.
If you have to conduct a virtual performance review, the exchange takes on another level of complexity. After all, there's a much higher chance of misunderstanding since in-person interaction is nonexistent.
Luckily, there are three things you can do to make a virtual performance review less nerve-racking for both parties.
1. Collect hard data
Among the core challenges associated with times like this, when there remains a lot of uncertainty and change, is that managers don't have enough data to conduct effective performance reviews.
With employees working from home, they don't get to see their direct reports in person, and as a result, their positive and negative biases toward employees might get amplified. Specifically, there's a risk for managers to think that their elite performers are surely doing a great job, whereas low-performing employees are likely to be struggling.
To address this, it's essential to be aware of such biases and focus on excavating hard data on the employee’s performance. Start by collecting feedback from three or four colleagues who work closely with the employee. These people will know the ins and outs of the person's job, which means their perspective is highly valuable.
You may also ask the employee to self assess their core responsibilities, so you have their point of view.
Lastly, evaluate the direct report for performance (e.g., list their two or three key achievements) and areas for improvement.
Once you have hard data available, you can then conduct a robust virtual performance review.
2. Deliver feedback with class
We all know how stressful performance reviews can be for all parties involved. But in today's challenging climate, it's much worse. Some of your direct reports might have been struggling to deliver on their pre-pandemic objectives even if they have stellar computer skills on a resume, while others might have had a hard time with feelings of isolation. All of the above calls for a little more heart, flexibility, and leniency on the manager's part.
So, make sure to email a copy of an employee's appraisal an hour or so before the online meeting. Doing so will let the employee have an initial emotional response in the comfort of their home. As a result, they'll come into the meeting with a cooler head, poised for a rational conversation, which should make the review much less stressful.
On top of that, pay close attention to your body language. Ensure the subtle visual cues you give project openness. Unlike a traditional face-to-face performance review, there aren't context cues, which might lead to misunderstandings. That's why it's critical to be much more explicit and verbal than you would in a one-on-one interaction to prevent things from getting lost in translation.
3. Create a follow-up action plan
While it might be tempting to conduct a performance review and move on, it’s critical to set aside some time down the road to check if the direct report is on track. Put together an action plan that outlines the steps (with deadlines) the employee has to take to improve their performance in the upcoming weeks or months.
Be aware that to see improvement in performance, you might need to offer the direct report a helping hand and pair them with a mentor for coaching purposes, send them to a virtual workshop, or purchase a textbook.
Lastly, make sure to set up regular one-on-one meetings with the employee to ensure they're going in the right direction.
About the author
Max Woolf is a writer at ResumeLab. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. You can find him on LinkedIn.