Every parent has had to face the moment when their kid asks, “which of us do you love best?” Of course the correct answer is, “Why I love all of you equally,” (even when it’s not 100% true and we all know it). The same dynamic is true of your mixed teams, when some are remote and others work where you do. Of course you love all your children (team members) equally, but do they believe you?
Seemingly childish, but very real, resentments can build up when the dynamic between co-located and virtual team members isn’t balanced.
Sometimes these are perceived slights and differences, sometimes they are the result of actions we don’t even take.
So what are some of the leadership behaviors that give team members the crazy notion that “dad and mom love (that other group) the best?”
- Remote teams always get the news last. News—good or bad—is talked about in the hallways or quickly convened meetings first, then communicated out to the field. This “we’re always the last to know,” might not seem like a big deal to managers. But it sends the notion that if you’re not in the office, you’re a second class citizen.
- Remote workers get to do their jobs—if you’re in the office you get all the dirty work and interruptions. This has become a real issue for many of my clients. If you fight the commute, manage to find a parking spot and show up on time, you’re more likely to get spotted by the boss and receive urgent tasks and assignments. As the boss, are you thinking before you delegate or simply grabbing the first warm body you can find?
- In meetings, there’s coffee, doughnuts, and everyone is laughing and having a good time. The people on the phone have to fight to be heard and get to speak last. Just like on the playground, if you’re excluded or picked last, you’re going to feel bad. Oh, this is the first time you realized work is just like grade school? Reasonable or not, the feelings are very real.
- In the office, you can look around and see that your peers are working hard, putting in the time, wearing work clothes and not spending all afternoon on Facebook. You don’t really know what those working at home are doing, but you’re pretty sure it involves fuzzy slippers and watching The View.
When working with both remote and co-located team members, it’s not so much being fair that’s important: it’s being seen and perceived that you’re treating everyone equally. Are there rumblings of unfair treatment? When you’re speaking to team members one-on-one do you hear complaints about “them”? Don’t ignore them, it could be a sign that resentment is setting in.
Do your remote and co-located team members feel like they’re part of the same team? Really?
How do you know?
What are you going to do about it?
About the author:
Wayne Turmel is the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings.com, and the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. For 20 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. Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. Follow him on Twitter at @greatwebmeeting!