When it comes to employee performance, do you have to see it, to believe it?

How do I know they are doing their job when I can’t see them doing it?
This is the dilemma that a woman in my peer mentoring group shared, and from the sounds of LinkedIn, and my HR friends, it’s a sentiment that is being felt by many managers. With appraisal time looming for many, the big question is, how do you appraise performance when you can’t see it?
When she stops to think about it, the woman in the group knows her team are doing the work. Deadlines are met, deliverables are of high quality, and yet she still has this niggly feeling, that somehow, they are not doing their job.
She wanted help to silence that niggle and as it turns out, it is not easy. We are fighting an unconscious bias.
Historically workers are thought of as inherently lazy. Without incentives and oversight workers will slack off and try to get away with doing as little as possible.
You’d think by now this this idea would have died but ask anyone, who pre-covid, had their working from home requests denied and you’ll know that the belief is still as strong today as it was during the industrial revolution.
Even though many of us would say we don’t have this bias, we don’t care when and where the work is done, in truth, if you haven’t worked as part of a completely virtual team, chances are you do.
Seeing is believing after all.
Having bias does not make you a bad person, we all have them and many are created as a result of our brains taking shortcuts to make information processing easier. For example thinking white male when you think leader.
The best way to confront a bias is head on. If you have a niggle that your team member isn’t doing the work ask yourself:
  • Have they delivered what you expect?
  • Have there been any complaints about their work?
  • Are they reasonably responsive when you get in touch within office hours?
  • Where have they gone above and beyond?
Look at the evidence.
If they are objectively doing their job then recognise that what you are feeling is your bias and not truth. Keep showing yourself examples of where they are doing the work and the niggle will start to quieten.
Of course if they really aren’t doing the work then just as if you were in the office you need to address it.
It is absolutely normal to feel uneasy when one of the ways you have to monitor how your team is performing is taken away. Remember, they may also be feeling anxiety about how their work is being perceived because they can’t see you.
My thinking was inspired this episode of Hidden Brain that posed the question ‘Do the measures we put in place to curtail the selfish, inadvertently hurt our capacity to do good things for other people?’ And by a talk on Unconscious Bias by Tinu Cornish that I attended in 2014.

I reply to every email I get so if something in this blog resonated with you or you’d like to share stories of how you’ve confronted your bias, drop me a line, [email protected]

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Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash