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#WFH: Recognizing a Remote Worker Mutiny

Recognizing when a team has turned against the leader or the mission is tricky. But it is always important to remember that people don’t leave companies, they leave other people. A common sign that a team is on the verge of mutiny is that they just stop showing up. This is a true signal that the team has turned against the leader, lost respect and checked out. There is a reluctance to engage or spend time with the leader. They may not be hostile but they are very aloof.

The team members may appear to be pleas-ant but just detached. This response is passive and subtle. This shows that the team members have lost faith in the leader. Other things will take pre-cedence, such as doctors’ appointments, children’s plays, visits from relatives, internet outages, computer problems, or any excuse not to show up. Alternatively, they show up but don’t contribute, goof off and avoid team tasks. Gossip is a key sign that things are going downhill fast. When people lose respect for the leader, they look for satisfaction in other ways.
People who are frustrated and disillusioned want to be heard. Sometimes we need to bring in an outsider to help. We might be able to use a mediator and or a consultant from another part of the company. It depends on how deep this problem is and to what degree the team has checked out. The important question is what to do about a virtual team if we think it has gone off track. Doing nothing will only make matters worse. Either the leader or the leader’s boss needs to step in and ask some hard questions, have some critical conversations and get to the root of the problem. If we can identify it, we have a chance to fix it. It is really important that the leader(s) realize that the mutiny began under their watch.

Leaders are not perfect; no one is. Admitting vulnerability and publicly acknowledging things are off track, what contributed to the problem, and what is going to be done to fix it is a good start. But it doesn’t stop there. We must follow through. Ad-mitting vulnerability adds to your power, it doesn’t diminish it. We need to say thanks for the input, thanks for the insight and thanks for letting me know where things went wrong. Now, here is what we are going to do to turn this around. Ask for in-put and take questions with an open mind. By being willing to listen and deal with things head on you discourage gossip, and gossip can be extremely destructive online. You want to discuss the issues with people both one on one and in a public forum.

What we don’t want to do is send out a survey and have the results remain secret. If we decide to use a survey, which is a formal indirect way of collecting information, make sure we publish and ad-dress the results. We want to ask for input and then show that we are willing to act to change things. The methods are not as important as the action. Keep the lines of communication open and rebuild trust. Trust is easily gained and more easily lost in a virtual environment. This happens because people are coexisting in two worlds without the constructs of time or space. Social bonding is critical on both a leadership and peer to peer level.

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