#WFH: Do You Have a Plan to Connect?
Start with a touchpoint plan and connect. Isolation and absentee management is not connection. Criticism and confrontation, even if it is subtle and indirect is not supportive. Sarcasm, complaining, ridiculing, correcting, reprimanding and in general putting people down or in their place just won’t cut it. If we want to encourage people in the virtual environment, we need stay positive. Create positive energy and keep them involved. Get them to talk and ask them questions. Support the individual and their ideas and take and make the time to listen to people. People know when you are really interested in them and when you are faking it. Get real. Pay attention and establish emotional and cognitive connection with every encounter. And tell people, with positive regard, how important they are to the success of the organization. Choose not to encourage this kind of supportive environment and the organization will pay a price.
Multicultural virtual teams can place special de-mands on leadership. Conflicts that arise from cultural differences can be subtle and hard to identify. Disagreements over delivery dates and strategies can become personal quickly and create feelings of mistrust and anger. Multicultural virtual teams can create challenges and dilemmas for management. The challenge is to recognize the underlying cultural differences and to intervene in ways that keep the business objectives front and center and empower the team members to meet those objectives (Brett, Behfar, & Kern, 2006).
Company culture can make or break success in the virtual workplace. Leadership in the organization plays a big part in setting the tone and establishing a culture of trust, mutual goals, and respect for and the value of each person. To support the virtual workplace, the organization and the individuals within the organization in roles of leadership need to value the virtual workplace. They need to understand that it is here to stay and that individuals and creativity can flourish in this environment for many reasons. A culture of control will not support all the elements that make the virtual workplace a great place to work. The values, beliefs and underlying assumptions will be based on mistrust, not creativity and support. The rules and the unspoken behaviors will be based on “us against them,” 20th century industrial economy logic. (Heathfield, 2014).
Don’t underestimate the importance of symbols in the virtual environment in supporting this dynamic. Do employees have what they need? Do they have a positive representation of the organization in their personal work environment? Do they have things with the logo, branding and reminders of their importance and connection? Do they have clear communication channels? Are there boundaries and limits in place? Does the organization respect the individual and their right to privacy? In many ways, the virtual workplace is like a startup organization. Communication is one to one and touching people is personal. Communicating is essential and needs to be explicit and intentional. People who do well in the virtual workplace need rewards and acknowledgement, and those that do not need us to be open, honest and communicate clear expectations (McKinnon, 2013).
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