To many people, working remotely has one giant perk: we are free from the interruptions caused by other people. Of course, many people say that the biggest downside is the lack of communication with other people. (Honestly, some people are NEVER satisfied.) How you interact with others—because you want to, or because you have to—may make or break your business relationships.
A Tale of Two Studies
A number of university studies bear this out. About ten years ago, a DePaul University study of working women determined that when people work together virtually, but don’t know each other’s face or anything other than their name, title and voice, there is an increase in “negative behavior.” This can be defined as withholding information ( or even outright lying), being more aggressive or demanding than usual, and even being perceived as rude or threatening.
The second, more recent study, cited by Dr. Robert Cialdini, is even more explicit. Two groups of MBA students, were given a negotiation to complete over email. One group was essentially told to forego social interaction and small-talk. They were to “get right down to business.” The other group took time to get to know each other before getting down to the brass tacks. The first group had a 55% success rate (deals agreed and closed.) The second group—the more social folks—reached an agreement 90% of the time.
What a shock: it takes scientific proof to acknowledge that we work more effectively with people we know, like and trust. There is a point at which we must interact to make that happen. The problem, of course, is that not all of us define “acceptable amounts of interaction” the same way.
Some of us need to limit our need to chatter both to get our own work done and not annoy the blazes out of people trying to accomplish their tasks. Others of us are quite happy being left alone to get our “to-do” list done and don’t really want to interact with others.
Do you know your own preference when it comes to interacting with others?
Do you feel stress because you aren’t getting enough human contact?
Do you voluntarily cut yourself off from talking to people unless forced to?
Can you honestly say this has no impact on your work, or the work of your team as a whole?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or can’t offer proof one way or the other, maybe you need outside confirmation. Seek the wisdom of your managers and trusted peers. Work style assessments such as DISC (and you can get a free on-line Disc assessment here to start with) can also offer insight into our preferences, which can be different from those of the rest of our team.
The amount (and quality) of the relationships you build can make the remote working experience much more successful and enjoyable, as well as impact how you’re perceived by others.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.