This article, intended to assist WFH managers struggling with managing WFH employees, has some good things to say. I hope you’ll read it whether you have been managing WFH or expect that you will be. https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-handle-the-pressure-of-being-a-manager-right-now
As an interpersonal behavior/relations assessment and development coach, I thought more about this after I read it ; here’s what crossed my mind.
If managers who WFH and manage others who WFH don’t understand about their own natural personality preferences and how they impact on their management style – communication, work, decision making, conflict resolution, flexibility and problem solving style – they could be in for some really tough sledding. Life could be much easier for them – and their employees -if they were better prepared in those things we call ‘soft” skills. These competencies have a huge bearing on management effectiveness yet too many are inadequately prepared – and it’s likely to show and impact more now on motivation, performance and, ultimately, on retention of employees.
How so? Well, for example:
Maybe someone will employ a remote management style requiring alot of detail and direction and follow up that’s what they prefer and they believe they are just being caretaking and through. To the WFH recipient, it might be experienced as micromanagement, overbearing, maybe signaling a lack of confidence. Then there’s the opposite; a WFH employee needs the structure and detail but their manager doesn’t and happens to think less management is best. The result? Employee performance and sense of growth and satisfaction.
Maybe a manager’s need for regular interaction with others isn’t as great as what some of their employees need from them. In that case, the level of contact may be insufficient leaving employees feeling less committed, less motivated, detached from the manager, the business and unhappy.
Bottom line: the Golden Rule doesn’t always work. “I don’t want you to do unto me as you would want for you”, says the WFH employee.
How well does a manager listen? What do they listen for? Facts? Feelings? Both? A change in physical proximity, which can sometimes make up for this, may require a behavioral adjustment. But in which direction? Without knowing these things about themselves, managers’ adjustments are just trial and error, a guessing game and frustrating. Reading someone across a screen or phone demands attention to all of this but are we equally aware and do we attend to it all? Chances are not; we have decided preferences that direct our attention and focus either to facts, ideas, or feelings. Listening well involves attention and focus on all and it is becoming increasingly critical.
We know people avoid asking for help for fear of being thought of as incapable or burdens; so employees, being people, don’t always directly ask for help when needed. If a manager has a preference for respond versus initiate, and their natural focus is on task and things versus people and feeling, they might miss signals that help is needed using ZOOM or SKYPE or the phone or whatever. They may miss tone, facial hints or other ‘tells’. So if an employee doesn’t directly ask or comment, if they don’t initiate a call or contact their manager, their manager may miss the need and fail to initiate needed support and help.
We hear alot about ‘introverts’ and ‘extroverts’ these days. For managers with an introversion preference, the awareness that an employee has a greater need for involvement, interaction, openness, and inclusion may just be missed, leaving the employee feeling overlooked, unimportant and not engaged. Not a good retention or motivation scenario.
Investments in assessing, educating and developing ‘soft’ skills of their management group is going to be a strategic advantage for businesses who have taken the time to do this, especially in our increasingly remote world of work.
Have you spotted yourself in here? Might any of this be contributing to your struggle to manage? It’s never too late to get better acquainted with yourself.