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The Evolution of Management in the Pandemic Era

When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the world in 2020, very few could have predicted how this crisis would impact the way the world sees work. Remote working seemed a completely alien concept for many people, but four years on it is commonplace. Since the pandemic, organisational psychologists have worked to understand how the pandemic affected workers, and what we can learn about our responses to crisis situations.

A recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review1 compiled almost 70 separate pieces of published research concerning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisations, management, and employees. HBR reported these findings, which we have summarised for you in this article.

As you might expect, the studies reviewed showed that the effects of the pandemic were felt throughout all levels of the workplace. We focused in particular on the results concerning individuals, teams, and leadership.


On an individual level, the pandemic sent anxiety and stress levels skyrocketing in employees. Health-related fears and concerns surrounding job security meant that performance suffered and burnout was far more prevalent.

Although now a method favoured by many2, adjusting to remote working conditions was detrimental at first. The abrupt switch to working from home brought with it a myriad of problems for employees, including the blurring of boundaries between work and home. In particular, jobseekers and working parents reported the highest stress levels during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

In the big picture, the COVID-19 crisis also acted as a catalyst for many people to take stock and consider their career. When faced with heightened awareness of their health, people were prompted to interrogate their sense of purpose in their current position, and were more likely to begin a job search for their dream position.


Although the effects of the pandemic on individuals were largely negative, it did have some positive effects on organisational teams. The research revealed that teams that spoke more about their personal experiences through the pandemic formed significantly stronger interpersonal bonds between team members.



The review also concluded that the effect of the pandemic on leadership performance was polarised. While some leaders reevaluated their management strategies and their contributions to the community, others floundered during the uncertainty or revealed their worst tendencies.

Leaders were found to be far more successful when they demonstrated care for employee health and safety throughout the pandemic – resulting in greater employee engagement and more successful transitions in working methods. Organisational performance was also boosted when leaders could cut through the uncertainty and give clear instructions to their subordinates.

Unfortunately, the pandemic also brought out the worst in leaders. Some managers only added to the uncertainty, hesitating on decisions when employees needed a decisive leader to follow. In particular, leaders who fueled anti-Asian sentiments – such as using racially charged terms to describe the COVID-19 virus – caused their employees to feel a greater burden of stress and unhappiness.


In conclusion, this review provides us with an important look into how the pandemic affected all levels of organisations. Managers should work to understand the cause and effect of the choices made during the pandemic, and endeavour to improve their crisis responses. So what are the takeaways from this research as we understand it?

  • In some cases, being decisive and providing clear direction can actually be more important than making the right decision in some cases.
  • Teams can and will support one another through crises such as this; encouraging team members to share their experiences without dismissing it as ‘non-work’ talk can strengthen interpersonal bonds and support systems.
  • Crises such as the pandemic are the true test of your leadership; it is essential as a manager to demonstrate a genuine care for the people you are managing. People can see through disingenuous displays, causing both morale and output to decrease. A person-centred manager actually optimises performance during times of uncertainty.


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