2 minute read 26 October 2021

Humanizing performance management

Some research and insights have a short shelf life, while others continue to gain color and context. In each issue of Deloitte Insights Magazine, we look back on research we published and ideas we pitched, and evaluate whether they’ve stood the test of time.

Timothy Murphy

Timothy Murphy

United States

What we said then

“Nonverbal information often trumps verbal content. In one experiment, subjects were asked to rate video recordings of participants reading various passages.… Subjects who were asked to assess the feelings of the participants assigned up to 13 times more importance to the nonverbal over the verbal content.”1

—“Avoiding the feedback monsters: Using behavioral insights to develop a strong feedback culture,” Deloitte Insights, April 2017.

What we say now

Put simply, we often communicate more meaning to our team members in how we deliver the message rather than just what we say. Words matter, but the tone and other nonverbal cues speak volumes.

Consider that fact within the context of our heavily remote—or hybrid—work environment today, in which emails, IMs, and conference calls are our primary modes of communication. The research we shared four years ago was conducted over video, but even video calls now are fraught with complexity when it comes to nonverbal communication. (The fatigue is real.)2

So how do team leaders host meaningful performance management conversations in a world in which face-to-face interactions can be few and far between, and video calls often involve staring at a shy, fatigued, or tuned-out team member’s headshot?

Make videoconferencing the exception rather than the rule. Using video less frequently can help your team members avoid video conferencing fatigue, and can help you increase the impact and meaning of those video-based touch points when you use them, tapping into your entire arsenal of communication—that is, both verbal and nonverbal cues. And if you’re in a hybrid work model, reserve those relatively rare in-person moments for one-on-one feedback sessions and check-ins with your team, rather than just spending that time in the office for business as usual.


  1. Michael Argyle, Florisse Alkema, and Robin Gilmour, “The communication of friendly and hostile attitudes by verbal and non-verbal signals,” European Journal of Social Psychology 1, no. 3 (1971): pp. 385–402. This finding has been repeated in multiple behavioral studies such as Patricia Noller, “Video primacy—A further look,” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 9, no. 1 (1985): pp. 28–47. View in Article
  2. Jeremy N. Bailenson, “Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue,” Technology, Mind, and Behavior 2, no. 1 (2021).View in Article

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Timothy Murphy

Timothy Murphy

Senior Research Leader, Enterprise Growth


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