It is common for employees to deal with an intolerant manager at least once during their professional careers. Whether these managers are abusing, harassing, or just not caring for the team – there are plenty of poor managers who are taking up office spaces throughout the business world.
Of course, it is challenging to work with a poor manager who is sitting in the next cubicle. However, a whole new set of problems arises when you are working with a remote manager.
Even good managers can find it difficult to manage a remote team or employee. With companies forced to work remotely virtually overnight, employees and managers are facing difficulties to ensure a seamless transition. As a result, remote working has become more of an adjustment rather than a successful transition.
According to a recent VitalSmarts survey, one in five leaders is either very unprepared or unprepared for managing remote teams efficiently.
This inefficiency of the managers can lead to several issues in the remote working environment. Communication, Trust, and Professionalism issues can often arise when both the employee and the manager are working through a remote location.
But this does not mean that you should overreact with despair or resignation. It is important to take a step back and organize your thoughts when dealing with a remote manager. You must look for solutions that can help you dealing with different issues that your manager may or may not have.
In this blog, we will discuss the common issues that arise while working with a remote manager/boss and how you must deal with them.
Problem #1 – Communication
Effective communication is the most important thing for having a productive and successful relationship with your manager. However, in a work from home environment, effective communication becomes difficult due to a lack of physical contact.
The absence of emotions and gestures – at times makes the manager think otherwise of you. They might think you are not interested in your remote work due to misinterpretation of words or tone of voice.
That said, it becomes even more strenuous when you are dealing with a manager you have never met in person. You are not aware of their preferred methods of communication and you do not know how often they would like to receive an update from you.
Keep observing during your initial 30 days working from home, you need to know all of these details to ensure smooth communication.
Know whether the manager would like to receive an update at the end of the week or at the end of the day. This will keep you aligned with their expectations, thus leading to better rapport with your remote manager.
All of these small details will help you deal effectively with your remote manager while ensuring seamless communication.
Personal Life Example:
Like in my case, few years back I worked with a marketing director who used to micro-manage a lot! When I say ‘a lot’, I mean ‘a lot’. So during this process he would randomly ask for updates, whats happening with this project, that project etc etc..Initially, I used to freak out because it used to be random and I was not able to update everything clearly, which used to create a bad impression.
Slowly I understood his style and prepared an update on each project EVERY SINGLE DAY while traveling in the metro for work. The upside of this was I knew on my fingertips what was happening with priority projects, so I used to update him with a great level of confidence which eventually led to these update sessions being no more an update session but discussions about new ideas, how to fix certain processes because he knew I was not fu*king around and can be trusted with the work given to me.
But again, this was something in-person for remote manager things might be needed to modify a bit but the core idea will always remain same –
Keep observing your boss during your initial 30 days working from home, you need to know all the critical details to ensure smooth communication.
- Make use of correct communication channels
It is important to remember that just because you do not see the manager does not mean you will forget reporting them. It is not out of sight out of mind kind of stuff.
Managers expect their remote workers to report from time to time with frequent updates and status reports. This is what makes communication effective.
At the same time, it is important to select the right channel for communication. For instance, you cannot select email as your communication channel for detailed conversations.
Below are the four different communication channels to be used based on the type of conversation you want to have with your manager and other team members.
Emails are best suited for neutral, short conversations that involve objective discussions. Having said that, your manager cannot pick up the tone in a written message. It is possible that your manager might misinterpret the email.
Therefore, include as much information as possible in a concise and clear to understand way.
- Instant Messenger
Instant messenger is better suited for having group chats or when you want to share details with more than one person. Use such platforms to share updates regarding the projects you are working on with the manager and other members of the team. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is better suited for longer talks, especially when the conversation is detailed, difficult, and involves several participants. Moreover, when you are always communicating with email and IMs, managers fail to understand the level of involvement you have in a particular project.
By using video conferencing as a mode of communication, you are also communicating your gestures and body language to the manager. This will help them understand the kind of involvement you have in the project.
Similar to video calls, the phone is better suited for long and detailed conversations. However, it makes sense when you are communicating one-on-one and doesn’t involve several members. You can also use phone conversations when your manager is on the go. Do not disturb them with video conferencing when they moving around in their car.
Apart from this, ensure that you book the timings of your meetings beforehand with the managers. Do not show up at the eleventh hour and call them impromptu without their permission.
Problem #2 – Trust
The coronavirus outbreak has forced many managers into remote management overnight. This requires a different skill set as compared to face-to-face management. Managers have been forced into this transition quickly and for the most part, without any appropriate training.
As a result, some managers may find it difficult to trust their employees. Trust issues arise because managers feel employees are taking undue advantage of their work from the home environment as no one is looking over them.
Even research has shown that managers who are managing remote workers are struggling to trust if their employees are indeed working.
In such scenarios, managers start to develop unreasonable expectations from their employees like availability at all times. Such expectations will disrupt your work-home balance, leading to more job stress.
In the section below, we have discussed a few ways to build trust with your managers even when you have never met them in person.
1. Maintain Consistent Working Hours
Before you start working with your remote manager, make sure you negotiate your working hours with the manager. Whether the working hours are of your choice or your manager chooses them, make sure you maintain them.
Being available when you say you would be available is the single best way to prove that you are a trustworthy, honest, and reliable employee. This will help you build trust with your remote manager immediately.
In fact, go the extra mile – There is a scene in the TV series ‘Suites’ where Mike ross shows up late to work and other employees in the office start nagging him for coming late. He tells this to his boss Harvey and says why dont people say this for you – Even though you show up late everyday as well?!
He replies back with a pretty BADASS answer, he said that during his initial days of work he used to slog his ass off in the office, being the first person in the office and the last one to leave, which eventually build an image about him in other co-workers mind. So even though he shows up late now and leaves at his own convenience, no one minds it.
I really liked this tip from him and apply it in my personal life as much as I can. This scene might not be word by word but that’s how I remember it, I usually use this technique for the first 90 days I join any new team/workplace or any new surrounding.
2. Always Answer Your Phone
If you are looking to build trust with your manager, ensure that you are always answering phone calls, especially during your working hours. Otherwise, the manager will get the impression that you are slacking off and/or doing other personal work. Therefore, make sure you are answering that phone.
3. Volunteer to Take On Tasks
Another way to build trust with your manager is through volunteering for different tasks. Whenever you see that the manager is struggling with certain areas, volunteer to help out your manager.
There would be times when your manager is swamped with several things such as dealing with multiple clients at a time. In such cases, you can offer to help by taking something off their plate. This will create a win-win situation for both. Your manager will have some relief and you will win their trust.
Problem #3 – Professionalism
Just like trust, your manager can also have professionalism issues with you. Of course, remote working comes with its own set of advantages and benefits. However, it is imperative to show your manager that you are professional with your work and are not taking it for granted. Otherwise, the manager can act as an obstacle in your professional growth.
In the section below, we have discussed some of the ways to boost your professionalism in the eyes of your manager.
1. Dress Up For Video Calls
Work from home gives you the flexibility to dress whichever way you want to dress. However, it is not wise to discuss project schedules, status updates, mission statements, and software updates while wearing your Avengers pajamas.
Of course, your boss cannot control what you wear while working from home. But if you are looking to get in the good books of your manager, then show your manager that you are taking remote work seriously.
Dress up professionally in a formal dress, especially during video calls.
Note – Observe your manager, do this ONLY IF YOUR MANAGER IS DOING IT.
2. Show Up Early For Conference Calls
Another way to show that you are professional towards your work is to show up a few minutes early for your conference calls. Moreover, it will also give you a couple of extra minutes to communicate directly with your manager if incase he joins the call early too.
The talk doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related. It could be related to anything – weather, weekend, or anything else. This will help you build a personal connection with the manager, which will go a long way in improving your overall work relationship.
3. Make Video Calls Your Priority
While remote working, it might be tempting to multitask during video calls. You might feel like washing your dishes, feeding your baby, or just organizing your desk during video conferencing. However, avoid this at all costs. This will tell your boss that you are not professional about your work life.
Therefore, rather than taking care of other things, you must focus on the ongoing video call. This will also ensure that you are better prepared to answer the questions that your manager has for you.
Replying to a question with, “Sorry, can you repeat that?” will not take you far in your professional career.
4. Have a Proactive Approach
Every manager will love to have new ideas that can save them money or boost productivity. Whether you have met the manager or not, it is imperative to show that you have a proactive approach.
Provide your remote manager with new ideas whenever you can. Even if your ideas do not work or are completely senseless, it will suggest to your manager that you are professional and consider the company as your own. They will start to think of you as a problem solver and forward thinker.
Just make sure you don’t bullshit, make sure whatever you say is logical and makes sense in your own head first. Make sure you back your idea with some numbers or stats if possible to make look as something feasible and realistic.
The sudden shift to remote working is not easy for both the managers as well as the employees. As a result, several issues with regard to communication, trust, and professionalism can arise in your relationship with the manager. Therefore, you have to be proactive in your approach to understand the working style of your remote manager whom you have never met in person.
If once a week status updates work for both of you, do it. If daily status updates work for both of you, do it. But ensure that you are clear on the expectations that your manager has with you.
Negotiate the expectations beforehand, rather than dealing with unwanted issues later on. Moreover, do not forget to respect your manager. Just because they do not have a physical presence in your life, does not mean that you have more authority than your manager. Respecting their authority will make them respect you as an employee.
So yeah thats it, if you feel like adding something relevant which has been missed let’s discuss it in comments below.
Thanks for reading.