It’s hard. That’s all you need to know. Let me first define “remote employee” – Remote employee is someone who is not at the same location as their manager. I have been remote employee for most part of my 10+ years of career. When I was at Microsoft, my manager was in Seattle and I was in NY. When I moved to Dallas, my manager was in Detroit. Now I’m still in Dallas with Facebook and my manager is in Chicago. I wanted to share some learning over the years of working with remote manager (reporting up) and managing remote employees.
Being remote employee is hard. My biggest fear has been: out of sight out of mind. You miss out on lot of hall way conversations, office parties, office events. You have to prove yourself again and again. You have to make sure your manager doesn’t think you are slacking off because he is unable to see you in office everyday, working your ass off. Actually, you have work extra hard to make your efforts visible, lot of times go out of your way to show the work you are doing is actually making an impact. You also have to keep your manager aware of work you are doing. One thing he will not see is frustrations and struggles of doing your work. He will not hear you vent about ludicrous client requests or asks. He will not see you working until 6 or 7 because you just have to get shit done.
Being introvert also doesn’t help. Introverts like myself do poor job of marketing themselves. I prefer my work and other people speak for my work and work ethic. Introverts actually enjoy quite time to think through all the various scenarios and possibilities before suggesting anything. We like to listen then speak rather than speak just to be heard. When we speak, we want comments/suggestion/question to be powerful one not the obvious one. If you remote manager doesn’t understand, value or know how to manage introvert personality, being remote is pretty much horrible.
So how do you manage up? Here is what I have seen work and somethings that doesn’t work.
- Communicate, over communicate. Sending weekly updates and having regular sync ups with your manager will be helpful
- Include your manager in vital client email communications
- Speak up in meetings (even if you are an introvert, you kinda have to)
What hasn’t work?
- Not talking about your frustrations with your manager. Be those frustrations be with client or with other team mates. Introverts like myself do poor job of this and as a result suffer in silence
- Not marketing your work and yourself
- Not syncing with your manager’s manager on regular basis
- Not having 1:1 on regular basis
How do you manage remote employees?
Managing remote employees is equally hard. It is difficult to make those personal level connections with your remote employee if you don’t see them every day or know what’s happening with their daily life if don’t have hallway conversations. Have to make an extra effort to make sure remote employees are aware of what rest of the team is doing and working on. Have to understand their employee’s personalities and understand how to manage them. Introverts should not be managed same way as extroverts and vice versa. Highlight their work to immediate and broader teams. Specifically ask about frustrations they have about their work and teammates or even better talk about frustrations others are feeling, so introverts feel comfortable to share. This must be done in delicate way so that not too much negativity is coming through. When possible, take time to better understand remote employee at a personal level, outside of work to make that connection.
If remote employee feels out of loop, unwanted, their work being unappreciated or not needed, or not managed based on their strengths that individual will certainly not last long in the organization. It takes certain level of experience, perspective, understanding and extra efforts to manage remote employees.
Nobody said it was easy.
At the end of the day, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.