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#WFH: How to Prevent a Remote Worker Mutiny!

Proximity is becoming a luxury in the 21st century workplace. Proximity impacts our ability to internalize emotion and our ability to detach. Conflict, crisis and miscommunication can increase exponentially in the virtual environment. Rumors, innuendoes and employee conflict are much more dangerous when we can’t see faces and visual cues. Remember that unresolved issues don’t go away, they go deeper. Personal attacks, vendettas and retaliation also have no place in the virtual workplace. Constantly reinforce there is no “I” in team and we are all in this together. Empathy, affinity and comradery among team members helps. It takes effort and it takes discipline. Stay on task and keep the conflicts and disagreements on that level also. Don’t get personal with conflicts. Don’t focus on when team members are working other than to set down time boundaries for personal lives and global time differences. Develop processes for communication and open channels that facilitate it. Make sure that people are getting the support they need to function with autonomy. If they need onboarding make sure they get effective onboarding. If they need a mentor or an apprenticeship then ensure that is what they get.

The purpose of the performance agreement in a virtual workplace is to engage the disengaged. These need to take place frequently, be 360 degrees in nature and provide actionable feedback through interaction with other team members. They should emphasize what team members are expected to do and clearly communicate the impact of those expectations on the entire team and project or group. They need to establish clear and concise expectations and accountabilities and make sure that those are communicated to everyone involved. Virtual teams operate in two dimensions simultaneously, the physical and the “electronic” space. These two are not mutually exclusive and can over-lap. The fundamental guidelines for operation are very different in each space. Flexibility without losing control and autonomy without losing influence are constructs that are difficult for organizations and individuals to achieve. Time is probably the concept most highly impacted when times zones are varied and workers on other continents are in-volved. No one wants to get up for a meeting at 4AM because the rest of the team members on are on a different continent. But virtual time does allow 24/ 7 work and allows you to move things around the globe and between continents easily and effectively. It also allows individuals to organize their own time by choosing when to interact with the work and each other. Yet trust is at the heart of the matter and when virtual teams mutiny it is usually because trust has been violated.

It is difficult to know and accept when our team has turned against us. It is even more difficult online. When we can’t see the plank and we can’t see the prisoner, it is really hard to know what to do, where to turn and how to turn the situation around. The best thing you can do is to be judicious and build strong teams. However, this doesn’t always work out. Even our best efforts can be misconstrued. Teams turn against leaders all the time and for all sorts of reasons. If a team member feels left out, not respected or not included they will return that sentiment. Online, it is very easy to feel unappreciated, unrecognized and underrepresented.

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