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#WFH: TRUST is # 1 with Remote Workers!

Everyone has a sense of identity. Carl Jung called this “individuation,” which has to do with our sense of self. Self is concerned with what we will do and what we won’t do. Our limitations, norms and culture help to define our identity. It is that innate sense of who we are and where our own personal limits, ethics and boundaries begin and end. In virtual space, identity is less well defined for some people. It becomes ambiguous and there is more freedom to de-individuate, or step beyond those constrains we use to define our sense of self. This is partly because the physical space, the body, the buildings and the rooms are stabilizing anchors. “You can only be one place at a time” no longer applies in the virtual workplace. You can have multiple electronic personas and multiple online identities. The anonymity of online is both a blessing and a curse. Information and identity are everywhere and nowhere. It all comes back to trust.

Many organizations support a culture that does not trust the worker to do their job and do it well. It goes back to industrial age psychology, of management vs labor, but really is founded on mistrust and control. Virtual workers require trust to make it work. Leadership needs to trust them and they need to trust the leadership. Virtual teams still require personal contact, strong relationships and that people get to know each other openly, honestly and well as people. This trust is built up over time and by social interactions and actions. Don’t ever underestimate actions. Actions equal results. Once a virtual team starts working, trust depends on the results.

Virtual teams bring new challenges of social, economic, leadership and psychological challenges for virtual leaders and virtual team members. The illusion of supervision and control that was prevalent in the 20th century has to be replaced by a culture of trust and support. Virtual teams need to share work across the globe that is incomplete, and this requires new mindsets and attitudes based on trust. But they also still need personal contact, strong relationships and personal connections with each other as individuals.

When we evaluate performance in a virtual environment it must be based on mutual trust and agreement. Standardized forms and formats don’t really matter. Feedback and clear expectations and how those will be evaluated does. Setting performance expectations cannot be a one and done exercise that is visited annually. Both the leaders and the team members must evaluate and revaluate at least once a quarter where they are and what they expect from each other. These evaluations must be ongoing and the results of these applied to taking action so that the organization, the project and the individual team members benefit from the feedback and move forward.

The administrative part of the performance ap-praisal is not nearly as important in the virtual envi-ronment as the developmental. Although there are still administrative realities in a virtual workplace, these need to be kept to a minimum. The perfor-mance appraisal needs to focus on the development of the individual. Both the skills and motivation of the employee need to be addressed and supported. Evidence-based conversations and new expecta-tions need to be clearly stated, addressed, assessed, evaluated and acted upon. Learning in the virtual workplace is ongoing and should be incorporated into the everyday performance expectations for the individual. Learning and development is not an afterthought. It is a critical part of surviving and thriving in a virtual workplace.

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