How to Avoid the ‘Awkward’ Performance Review (During COVID-19 & Beyond)

Performance reviews can be stress-inducing as it is—and conducting them in a remote environment presents an even greater challenge. But the reality is that they are essential in order to provide structure and opportunities for growth to your employees.

Suffice it to say, these already aren’t the easiest of times, so you should strive to provide your employees with as much stability as possible when it comes to this nerve-racking process. 

So, what’s the key to ensuring a stress-free, constructive performance review? Preparation. 

Being prepared with documentation and talking points as a reviewer or reviewee is imperative in order to set clear expectations and prevent either party from being blindsided during the review. 

Now, this isn’t the only thing that brings comfort and ease to a sometimes tense situation. At this particular moment in time, simple strategies like keeping your video on as well as being compassionate and understanding of the struggles that come with working in a virtual environment can go a long way. 

Whether you’re conducting or receiving a performance review, have no fear—here are some tips for a productive and not-so-awkward meeting!

Managers

1. Prepare your documentation

Gauge your employee’s performance and prepare a detailed review noting their goal progress, strengths, weaknesses, impact on your team, overall communication skills, etc. It’s important to emphasize that any weaknesses or negative comments mentioned should not be new to your employee. Ensure that you take note of performance issues as they arise so that reviews just act as an opportunity to restate those issues and hopefully comment on any improvements made.

2. Alter your assessment

Managing a remote workforce is a new challenge for many supervisors, and it’s important to recognize and prioritize qualities that are even more relevant in a virtual setting—teamwork and communication. Focusing on these skill sets will, in turn, help make individual contributors more successful in this new environment.

3. Focus on the positives

While assessing your employees in these uncertain times, approach your evaluations with more flexibility and compassion. Acknowledging success is one of the best ways to motivate and empower employees to continue to do great work, so starting and ending with positive comments can prove to be a powerful strategy. Connecting an employee’s individual work back to the bigger picture—whether it relates to team goals or company-wide objectives—is equally important. Now more than ever, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the team, so establishing the impact someone is making to the bigger picture can be highly rewarding.

Individual Contributors

1. Prepare a list of questions

Performance reviews require an open dialogue between a manager and an employee, so it’s important to come prepared with a set of questions that you’d like to ask your manager. Not only will this leave you with a response for the inevitable “Do you have any questions for me?”, but it will also show your eagerness to improve and grow in your role.

2. Be open to sharing blockers

There’s no doubt that we’re facing a greater set of roadblocks today than this time last year, and there’s no shame in sharing that. With entire workforces working from home with kids, pets, or even alone, it’s understandable and expected that this will come with a whole new set of challenges. Expressing concerns and discussing solutions with your manager will only set you up for success.

3. Discuss career aspirations

Although it’s hard to think about and plan for the future when everything seems to be at a standstill, bringing up career goals sooner rather than later is crucial. This could entail discussing a projected timeline for a promotion or communicating interest in a different team or department. Being open and honest about career aspirations can help to better shape your goals and, overall, will help you build a stronger relationship with your manager. 


Conducting or receiving a performance review is likely one of the more daunting tasks assigned to a manager or employee, but when done right, they can be extremely valuable and rewarding. 

Not only are they a developmental necessity, but amidst a global pandemic and widespread unrest, performance reviews can also be a great way to boost morale and reinforce company values. Remote communication will always present a specific set of difficulties, but we hope that these tips will help you and your fellow employees to embark on more fruitful, organic conversations.

Topics: Performance Management

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