(I drafted this blog in June 2020 when we still did not know much about the pandemic.)
Zoom,Teams,Google meet, Skype,WhatsApp……
These are places we all working in during the Corona epidemic.
I had a client who had a hard time adjusting. She insisted on seeing everyone’s face during a virtual meeting. She had not allowed meetings to proceed until she sees your face. She would insist and the meeting did not move along until we agreed. The first time this happened there was a moment of silence. I pictured the ones in the pyjamas (am guilty) rushing to look decent for the camera. Then cameras on. We later learnt that she was not bothered about how we looked. She just wanted to read our body language albeit just from ours faces. Fast forward several months and the need for video on has subsided though I suspect it is because almost everyone is comfortable in home clothes and there not-so presentable hair styles. The more serious reason is because we have found a balance between face to face and video meetings that allows people to read each other better.
I did not understand the liability of virtual meetings until we had to do bi-annual employee reviews. The annual review process was simple. You are rated periodically by your colleagues and these inputs go towards giving the employee feedback on areas they are excelling at and areas they can improve on. This is the easy part where we have carried out this process digitally over years. The hard part, I found out, was communicating the results back to the team leaders and the team.
It was tough especially when trying to articulate the feedback on the areas that the employee needs to improve. This is delicate communication. Normally, when you are meeting face to face, there are visual cues, uncomfotable shuffles and nervous habits that you are able to identify discomfort. With these cues you are able to stop and deep dive on the area of discomfort and try work it out.
With virtual calls, this has been difficult. Actually for me, it was a nightmare at times. You have limited observation of body language and the miscommunication gap grew. I spent more hours, than in previous years, trying to understand salient issues and fire fighting mis-understandings of the review feedback. There were many heated calls and me pacing up and down trying to remedy the mis-understandings and give clarity on what we can focus on for the next 6 months.
My learning is that virtual communication and work is great but it cannot replace(at least in the near foreseeable future) human to human interaction. The key is balance. My second learning is that we need to break away from long cycles of evaluation to shorter cycles that allow positive feedback to the employee to show that they are in the right direction and to catch areas of diversion from the company’s goals early. Catching these behaviors late, creates some form of resentment that takes time to understand and provide guidance. This is precious time taken away from our work to satisfy our customers.
I am completing this blog in December and am glad to see that we are trying to get a balance of how we interact as humans in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has ridden us rough shod.
Here is to -hopefully- a better 2021 (Inshallah) but it seems my end of year blogs are always optimistic of the new year:
What I said in 2018 (you can never be too optimistic): https://torooti.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/2018-the-year-of-recovery/?preview=true&preview_id=555&preview_nonce=fd94657be6