Conducting Performance Appraisals During COVID-19

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By Ryan Stenvick

Vice President of Business Development and Delivery, North America

Back in March of 2020, like most other Americans, I only expected to be out of the workplace for a short time. Little did I know that COVID-19 would wreak such havoc on our world and impact our lives so dramatically. As managers will soon begin conducting performance reviews on their team members, many of these leaders (myself included) will struggle in toeing a fine line between accountability and empathy. While the pandemic has impacted everyone in different ways, how can managers treat all of their employees with the utmost fairness during this time of crisis?

Striking a Balance Between Leading and Micromanaging

Here are some tips to ensure that your performance appraisals maintain a sense of sincerity during the pandemic:

Put your people first

As leaders, we must understand that everyone is facing their own personal challenges during this time. Heightened anxieties of contracting the disease, paired with extended periods of social isolation and quarantining, can be highly destructive to one’s mental health. Before jumping into a performance appraisal, managers should do their best to check in with each employee and ensure that he/she is taking active steps to nurture their emotional well-being. To earn trust and respect from your team, make the effort to be a compassionate leader who shows a genuine willingness to listen.

Come up with creative ways to overcome at-home disruptions

While some employees have experienced an impressive increase in productivity while working from home, others have not fared as well in this new environment. There are thousands of different scenarios that could be impacting your team members while working from home. Managers must be sure to take each employee’s personal circumstances into account and, when possible, provide solutions to help your team member remain productive. For example, suggest flexible work hours for your employees,  minimize your team meetings during “prime time” so employees can focus on critical tasks, and adjust goals to reflect more realistic targets.

Find a balance

It’s possible to expect output from your employees while also being sensitive to things they may be dealing with in their personal lives. Although managers have been forced to adjust their team-wide performance goals, it doesn’t mean that workers are now completely “off the hook.” Reinforce the fact that business needs will persist despite the pandemic. Ask questions about why an employee has struggled to meet expectations or deadlines. Ultimately, if performance issues existed before COVID-19, it’s more than likely that these problems have only been exacerbated since the start of the work-from-home movement. Be judicious in your decision-making, but don’t shy away from honesty during a performance appraisal and have the “tough conversations” if that’s what needs to happen.

In this unprecedented business climate, companies need their employees to perform now more than ever. Managers must hold their workers accountable and ensure that their teams stay on task, even in a remote setting.  If executed effectively, performance conversations can have a positive impact on motivation and performance.


The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of having constant real-time feedback discussions to monitor workers’ performance and help set fair expectations. As work-from-home arrangements will undoubtedly become the future of work, managers must remain empathetic and show support for their employees. Our world will continuously adapt in the years ahead—and leaders must display a willingness to do the same.

Interested in learning what employees really want from their managers? Check out this latest blog from my colleague Gina Milonas here to learn about the four things that workers look for in a workplace leader.

Get in touch with our team at Acara