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

87% of workers feel they work as, or more efficiently, from home, 85% of managers disagree.

These are the results from a Microsoft survey released this month that questioned more than 20,000 staff across 11 countries.

It reminded me of something I wrote back in June of 2020, when we had a mass move to working from home. I was working with a peer mentoring group and one of the members brought this dilemma:

How do I know they are doing their job when I can’t see them doing it?

When she stopped to think about it, the woman in the group knew her team were doing the work. Deadlines were met, deliverables were of high quality, and yet she still had this niggly feeling, that somehow, they were not doing their job.

She wanted help to silence that niggle and as it turns out, it’s not easy. We were fighting an unconscious bias.

Historically workers are thought of as inherently lazy. Without incentives and oversight workers they’ll 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 as the Microsoft survey shows, beliefs are hard to change.

So many managers I talk to say they don’t care when and where the work is done, so I must be talking to the other 15% right?

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:

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  • 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?

The Microsoft study also recommends helping your team to focus on the work that is most important and being clear on what doesn’t matter.

Look at the evidence.

If they’re objectively doing their job then recognise that what you are feeling is your bias and not truth. Keep showing yourself examples of where they’re 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, jude@thinkwithjude.com.

Want my thoughts on how to be a better leader and nurture new leaders in your inbox every Sunday?

Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash
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