Thanks to Covid the Manager Employee Relationship has Got Personal

Mark Lewis
July 6, 2020
min read
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What happened?

COVID-19 has acted as a big reboot for how managers and employees work together. It’s torn down previous locked-in thinking and management paradigms that were born in the industrial era. We’re now in a knowledge economy and the post-pandemic environment has helped us transition rapidly to new management styles and ways of working that are more fit for today’s workforce.

1. Humanizing work

Work conversations have organically flowed into the personal space, as dogs, kids and dirty dishes have made appearances on Zoom calls. These interventions have made it okay for managers and employees to take the conversation to a personal level. This connected us during COVID and isn't "snapping back" to the pre-covid environment. Thank goodness.

The act of having a more personal conversation builds stronger connections and more meaningful relationships. Employees feel more comfortable, the conversation is more authentic and the world of work feels more human.

With a direct window into the home lives of employees, we get to see the distractions and circumstances being juggled everyday, and can tailor our approach to each other with more empathy for individual needs

And the window goes both ways, employees see managers in their homes which humanizes them too. Making managers more approachable and creating the space and confidence for employees to manage up without falling over .

2. WFA (Working From Anywhere) impact on trust and autonomy

Working from anywhere has been a catalyst for a fundamental shift in the way work is managed. Out of the office - it is no longer possible to count hours of work done or to micro manager every task, instead managers and employees had to become outcome-focused and by doing so we created new levels of autonomy.

Employees had discretion over how they go about reaching their goals, when they work, and where they work. This autonomy increased engagement, productivity and performance for employees, and managers discover newfound levels of trust in their team’s ability to deliver without a tonne of input. We want to sustain this approach as we move into the current hybrid working environment.

3. Managers becoming coaches

With so much uncertainty and constant change, the manager employee relationship has had to become more agile, forward-looking, and forgiving. Managers have become focused on in-the-moment coaching of their team members to help them be successful over the next two weeks based on the latest information at hand. Coupled with forced higher levels of autonomy and trust, the conversation is more about problem solving and future success instead of employee assessment and judgement.

These trends were happening pre-COVID but they’ve been accelerated by the pandemic and whilst this style of manager employee relationship is essential in remote teams, it’s also the people management skills you’ll find in high performing office-based teams. It’s suited to knowledge or service based work and lets face it - that’s what most of us are doing.

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