Newsletter: Performance Reviews In A Pandemic


Can you believe it is already November? We’re nearing the end of another (albeit, truly unique) year, and it’s time for performance reviews. If you’re struggling with how to fairly assess performance in a remote, pandemic world, here are some suggestions.

Use metrics that really matter

“Measure what matters” is usually invoked when discussing the importance of creating an environment of accountability. Under the current circumstances, I’d urge you to think of it more literally, which is that we should focus on the outcomes that matter not how people achieve those outcomes. For instance, do you value a great report differently if you’ve heard that someone worked all night to finish it? I’ve found that even the most merit-focused people among us often have specific ideas about what the demonstration of merit looks like. Maybe face time was a big part of your culture. Or perhaps you’ve been successful working at certain times (whether that’s through lunch or after hours) and unconsciously associate that work pattern with achievement. Given the new ways most of us have been forced to operate this year, now is a good time to reset your filter and ensure that your metrics for success focus on outcomes not specific ways of working, especially approaches that may be less attainable right now.

Agree on priorities

One of the worst feelings is completing a project, only to find out that a different project was more pressing…and needs to be completed immediately. Keep a running list of your projects and tasks and regularly confirm with your teams how they should be prioritized. Managers, review where your people are spending and planning to spend their time. If priorities change, kindly redirect their efforts as soon as possible to prevent frustration and misspent time. And remember, prioritization isn’t a one-and-done exercise. It’s a continual process.

Solicit and share more feedback than normal

Everyone is experiencing the pandemic a bit differently and, in the face of increased remote work, many have had to adapt to entirely different feedback systems and ways of working together. To be productive, everyone needs to understand how others work best in this new environment. The only way to get that information is to ask for it and divulge it. If you’re an individual contributor, ask your manager: is how I do x (deliver work product, respond to feedback, ask for your time, etc.) working for you? What could make for a smoother process? Similarly, managers, ask your people those same questions to deliver what they need to succeed. 

Give yourself (and others) grace

We all have expectations that we want to meet or want met. This year, many of us have been unable to meet metrics that have made sense in the past – whether related to work, family, or other areas of life. Everyone is experiencing unprecedented levels of change and uncertainty. Give yourself and those around you grace in the midst of these acutely stressful times.

It’s been a crazy year, but we’re getting through it together. Please share your tips for managing through this dislocation. 


Precious Williams Owodunni | President & Founder of Mountaintop Consulting

This letter was originally published in Mountaintop Consulting’s monthly newsletter. You can read the full newsletter here.

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