Should employers suspend performance evaluations in 2020 because of COVID?

Answer:  No.  That is my answer but others disagree.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled Pandemic Produces a Kinder, Gentler Performance Review, the question presented was whether performance evaluations should be suspended because both employers and employees have had a difficult year.    The article discussed a pandemic-driven management style called empathetic leadership.  Empathetic leadership involves recognizing and evaluating the whole person and not just the worker.  Facebook pushed empathy by declaring that 45,000 staffers exceeded expectations ensuring they received their bonuses. 

First and foremost this has been a difficult year.  At the risk of stating the obvious 2020 has presented a bucket full of challenges.  

Second, instead of foregoing performance evaluations, could there be a better way? 

The answer is yes.  As to Facebook’s decision to give every worker a top score to ensure that everyone received bonuses, Facebook could have changed its bonus policy and simply declared bonuses for all instead of linking the bonuses to a score on the performance evaluation.  

Furthermore, since 2020 presented unanticipated challenges for employers and employees, the performance evaluation should evaluate, with empathy, how employees met those unanticipated challenges.  In thinking about how to evaluate performance in 2020, there are several relevant questions to help gauge employee performance: 

Did workers pivot when the pandemic generated unanticipated challenges?

Were workers dependable under the circumstances?

Were workers resilient?

Were workers creative in meeting the challenges they confronted?

Were workers willing to take on new roles, tasks or functions?

Did workers conform to new policies in good faith?

Consider a performance evaluation that measures performance based on relevant metrics and deliver the evaluation respectfully.  And if employers, in the holiday spirit, decide to avoid giving employees the lowest scores on an evaluation, that sounds like a better version of empathetic leadership to me.

If you are modifying your performance evaluation protocol this year and you want to share it please call or write to me at 612-812-9673 or