4.19.11 How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Dear Office-bound Managers,

 In case you skipped out on your organization’s mandatory Dale Carnegie workshop or have unintentionally disenfranchised  your teleworkers by creating a perception of inequality, here are a few things to watch out for:

  1.  Office parties.  For remote workers, nothing is worse than seeing the email announcements about the cake and party in the conference room for Mary’s birthday or for John’s 10-year anniversary with the company when not so much as an email goes out to a remote worker when a similar milestone is met.  I’m not suggesting to abolish office parties.  Just make sure you recognize all the people on your team one way or another, not just those that work in the same location as you.
  2. Awards & Rewards.  After the success of a large scale project, one VP decided to reward the project team members with a wine basket.  Nice touch.  However, when he found out that he couldn’t send the bottles through the mail, he simply apologized to the remote team members, but thanked them anyway for their contribution.  Not so nice.  Make sure you reward everyone on your team in the same manner.
  3. Talk, talk, talk.  How many times have you been in a meeting with several people in the same room and others online or on the phone?  You and the others in the room talk for 50 minutes and then ask, “does anyone on the phone have anything to add?”  By that point, remote workers assume you don’t care about their input, have put you on mute, and are already working on something else. 
  4. Cheap shots.  Enough with jokes about “I bet you’re working in your pajamas right now.”  In fact, you may be right; however, according to several studies, teleworkers work more hours than office-bound workers, so do you really care about the bunny slippers?  Offhanded comments do nothing except erode morale and cause resentment.  
  5. Measuring in different ways.  One of the number one questions I receive is “how do you measure the performance of a teleworker?”  I always answer with, “how do you measure your employees right now?”  ideally, you should measure employees the same way, regardless if they are co-located with you or remote.  If you do not have a results-oriented focus, lack tangible performance metrics, or measure teleworkers with a different yardstick, then you  will only solidify a state of inequality in your team.  
  6. Micromanaging.  I knew a manager that used to set up 30 minute meetings at the end of each day to talk to her teleworkers about what they did that day.  Of course, she did not feel the need to do the same with her employees that worked in the same building with her, even though she would not bump into some of them for days at a time.  No one likes to be micromanaged, and it’s even worse if team members realize that only some of them are scrutinized.  With performance based metrics and a healthy understanding of what an employee’s job entails, there should be no reason to stand (virtually) over an employee’s shoulder.

 In the end, all leaders want high performing teams that can work together, work through challenges, and accomplish or exceed established goals.  The foundation is trust.  Trust can be built through creating an environment of fairness and equality between virtual and traditional, office bound team members. It may take time to build but trust can quickly be destroyed with a few avoidable missteps.  Watch out for the mistakes above and good luck building your teams.

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