Employee Management

How to Eliminate Awkwardness in Remote Performance Reviews

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How to Eliminate Awkwardness in Remote Performance Reviews
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How to Eliminate Awkwardness in Remote Performance Reviews

You’ve undoubtedly been through it before, the agony of anticipating a performance evaluation. The buildup alone is enough to drive anyone insane.

Then there’s the actual review itself. You sit down with your employer, preparing your mind for all potential criticisms. You try to keep an open mind, but it’s hard not to feel defensive.

And if you’re like most people, you walk away from the meeting feeling criticized, insecure, and unsure of your future with the company.

Performance reviews can make you bite your nails and break a sweat, no matter if you’re giving feedback to a direct report, getting constructive criticism from a boss, or delivering peer-to-peer evaluations.

It’s not pleasant, but it’s important.

What does a good review look like

What does a good review look like?

Performance reviews are a necessary evil in the corporate world. They are extremely valuable to any team, remote or not. They should happen regularly and have a specific goal: to improve individual, team, and organizational performance.

A good review should be balanced and fair – it should provide feedback on both strengths and weaknesses observed over the period reviewed. The goal is to help the individual employee grow and develop professionally while also meeting the needs of the organization.

The purpose is to assess how an employee is performing in their role. It’s an opportunity for employers to give feedback, both positive and negative, and to set goals.

Empathy for all involved

It’s to your advantage to recognize that performance reviews can be difficult for everyone involved. Performance review anxiety is very real, and it’s something that your employees are likely struggling with.

As a manager, you understand that you’ll be leading these reviews for your employees. So, at the very least, you can comprehend how intimidating this may be for those whom you’ll be interviewing.

Most likely they’ll feel under a microscope, with their every failure potentially exposed.

As a manager, it’s important to make sure your team is comfortable with the performance review process.

This is especially true if you’re conducting remote performance reviews. When you’re not face-to-face with your employees, it can be difficult to gauge their reaction to the feedback you’re giving them.

Remote Performance Reviews

Remote Performance Reviews

Apple Watches, Google Docs, and Zoom have made it possible for us to be productive from anywhere. But what about performance reviews? How can we tackle them when our team is distributed across the world?

All things considered, the workforce trend is shifting to online or remote.

According to a recent study by researchers at Standford, nearly half of the American workforce – 42% – works from home. That pattern isn’t just restricted to the United States. Teleworking has exploded in popularity all around the world.

So, it’s not surprising that more and more companies are conducting performance reviews remotely. And it looks like this trend is here to stay.

For some, this might be comforting to have some space behind a screen. The person being interviewed can keep notes on their desk, mute the screen to catch a thought, and take a break without feeling the awkwardness of being seen.

But for others, it might be difficult to focus when they’re not in the office and can’t easily ask questions or get a feel for the room.

The art and science of reviews

There’s both an art and a science to conducting a performance review. On the science side, there are objective measures that help assess an employee’s performance. Performance reviews should be based on data and not personal biases.

But on the art side, it’s important to consider the feelings of those involved. Performance reviews can often feel like a personal attack, and it’s important to take that into account when delivering feedback.

When done well, the performance review process should be:

  • Focused on results, not activities
  • Data-driven
  • Objective
  • Balanced (positive and negative feedback)
  • Timely (regular reviews help employees stay on track)
  • Constructive (focused on growth and development)

Giving & Receiving FEEDBACK

Giving & Receiving FEEDBACK

Learning how to receive and give feedback is the key to successful performance reviews. Feedback is an essential quality. Without it, there is no way to improve upon past performance.

Giving Feedback

It’s critical to be clear about what you want to accomplish while providing feedback. As a result, it might be beneficial to know that there are four types of feedback:

Goal-oriented feedback – This type of feedback helps employees understand how their actions contribute to the organization’s goals.

Process-oriented feedback – This type of feedback focuses on how an employee can improve their performance by changing their methods or processes.

Relationship-oriented feedback – This type of feedback is about the interactions between an employee and their co-workers or boss.

Personal feedback – This type of feedback is about an employee’s character or personality traits.

Receiving feedback

You should not only try to provide feedback regularly, but you should also make allowance for your staff to voice their thoughts too.

There are three key areas for your employees to offer feedback:

1. self-performance

If they were to judge themselves, how would they rate their performance? How do they see themselves fitting into the overall structure of the organizations?

2. systemic issues

If they were in charge what would they do differently? Are there any areas of the business they feel need improvement?

3. leadership feedback
How have they been led? What type of leader do they respond to?

The Performance Review Outcome

The Performance Review Outcome

Ideally, the goal of a performance review is for both the employee and the organization to walk away with a better understanding of how the employee can improve and grow. The review should also give a sense of where the company stands in terms of its goals and objectives.

It’s important to keep in mind that reviews shouldn’t be a one-time event. They should be a regular occurrence, to keep employees on track and help them grow.

6 tips to conducting a performance review – remotely

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of conducting a performance review. A remote review is very similar to a review done in person, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Here are 6 tips for conducting a remote performance review:

1. Set the right tone

The first step is to set the right tone for the conversation. This means being clear, concise, and direct. You want to avoid any ambiguity in the conversation. The last thing you want is for your employee to leave the conversation feeling confused or uncertain about what was discussed.

It’s also important to be respectful and professional. This is not the time to get personal or heated. Remember, the goal is to help the employee grow and develop, not to put them down.

2. Choose the right tools

There are several tools out there that can help with remote reviews. Our favorites include Zoom and Teamly.

Zoom is great for video conferencing. It’s easy to use and has a lot of features, like screen sharing and chat, that can be helpful during a review. It doesn’t have to be Zoom, all that matters is that you use some sort of video conference tool.

This may bring up the question: “why cant I just email the review or just give feedback over the phone?” This would be a bad idea for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to have a back-and-forth conversation over email.
  • You can’t see the person’s facial expressions or body language, which can be important in a performance review.
  • It’s easy for things to get lost in translation over the phone.

Teamly is a project management tool that can help you keep track of all your teams and projects. It’s amazing at keeping your work goals and objectives all in one place. It’s also great for observing deadlines and communication patterns for remote teams.

3. Give an overview of your meeting ahead of time.

Give a written overview before the meeting. This allows your employee time to process the information and prepare for the discussion. It also shows that you’re organized and have thought about the meeting ahead of time.

Giving team members access to the review ahead of time means they can think deeply about your main points before the conversation, and you can ask more thoughtful questions during the meeting as opposed to just reciting a bunch of information in front of them.

What should be included in the overview?

There’s a dance. You don’t want to share anything too personal or confidential – but you do want to give your remote worker a sense of the topics you’ll cover.
Generally, you’ll want to share:

  • The goals of the meeting and how it will help the employee grow
  • The tools that will be used during the meeting
  • The agenda for the meeting
  • Any documents or resources that will be referenced during the meeting

Structure the conversation

4. Structure the conversation

It’s also imperative to have a structure to the conversation. This means having a plan for what you want to cover and how you want to cover it.

You don’t have to stick to the plan rigidly, but it’s important to have a general idea of the topics you want to discuss. This will help keep the conversation on track and focused.

Here is a template for structuring the performance review conversation:

  • Introductions: Who are you, who is your employee
  • Review Period: When did the review take place
  • Goals: Discuss progress on goals and objectives
  • Feedback: Offer feedback on strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth
  • Next Steps: What should the employee do next to improve their performance

5. Remember to welcome feedback

Not only is it important for you to give both positive and negative feedback to your employee, but you must also provide a place for the interviewee to express his or her feelings.

The benefit of this is twofold:

  • It allows you to get a sense of how the employee perceives their work, which can help you understand their motivation or lack thereof.
  • It also allows the employee to feel heard and valued, which can help build trust and rapport.

When giving feedback, it’s important to be clear, concise, and specific. For example, rather than saying “you’re not meeting deadlines,” try “I noticed that you missed the deadline for project X. Can you tell me more about what happened?”

Make sure to give your employees time to respond and ask questions. Remember, feedback should be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Follow up with an action plan

6. Follow up with an action plan

Once the meeting is over, it’s important to follow up with an action plan. This document should list the goals that were set in the meeting, the steps that need to be taken to achieve those goals and the deadlines for completing those steps.


Performance reviews don’t have to be a stressful experience. In fact, they might be quite helpful if done correctly.

If you structure the meeting, give your overview, invite feedback, and end with an action plan, you’re well on your way to a successful review. These steps will help ensure that the meeting is productive and beneficial for both parties involved.

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