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How remote managers can build trust with their remote workers

Search Remotely Remote Managers Build Trust

Harvard Business Review  (HBR) reported upon a study to measure the level of trust existing between remote managers who manage remote contractors and teleworking employees and the level of trust held by remote workers for their employer and remote manager. While we will discuss the details in this article, the key finding was that the supervisors of remote workers found the management of a remote workforce challenging. The results of the research suggest that remote managers would  welcome additional support.

A key aspect of the perceived difficulties in managing, supervising and monitoring a remote workforce effectively was the managers’ notion that they lacked the ability. For instance, roughly 40% of supervisors and managers participating in the research held low self confidence in their remote management and supervisory abilities.

In alignment with the negative views the remote managers held about their own self-perceived limitations and lack of ability in managing remote workers, they held similar views of remote workers.  Believe it or not, almost an equal percentage of remote supervisors (38%) agreed with the statement that “remote workers usually perform worse than those who work in an office.”

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Further, in addition to remote managers negative perceptions of their own capabilities in managing and supervising remote workers, and the negative views of poor performance of remote workers in comparisons to the beliefs they hold of workers reporting to a traditional in office environment; an almost equal share of the participants (41%) expressed negative views of the future. Forty-one percent agreed with this statement, “I am skeptical as to whether remote workers can stay motivated.”

Although detailed data was not provided, the Harvard researchers indicated that the participants who held negative viewpoints of their own capabilities,  adverse opinions of the competencies of remote workers in general and specifically their own remote workers of whom they manage; supervisors of remote workers also believed that their bosses (supervisors) monitored them too closely and felt that they lacked autonomy.

In fact, the researchers surmised that this was a closed loop scenario whereby mistrust and negative perceptions from one’s boss or higher up about the concept of remote working arrangements and remote workers feeds more mistrust and negativity at the lower levels.

HBR Trust Building Tips: Remote Employer Organizations

As a result of these findings, the Harvard researchers made these suggestions related to organizational change:

  1. The employing organization should provide greater support and guidance  to managers and supervisors as the employer works to adopt remote, hybrid and more flexible working arrangements
  2. The types of support favored by the study participants and the researchers are: training and professional development.
  3. The researchers suggested that the employer should make increased efforts at communicating positive messages throughout the organization about working from home, hybrid and flexible work options.

Search Remotely Trust Building Tips: Remote Employer Organizations

  1. The types of support we  recommend would  be communication, monitoring, time management tools, the continuous re-development of standard operating procedures and suggested best practices.
  2. Our firm would add that the employer should consider integrating these flexible working arrangements into their corporate vision, mission statement, goals and objectives so that the outcomes of these initiatives are reported upon, measured, studied, and refined.
  3. We would also suggest that the remote employing organization should consider hiring remote specific specialists who can guide the organization, managers, employees and contractors thereby increasing remote supervisors, remote workers self efficacy for tele-commuting and/or leading a team of remote workers.

Great for providing this information, you may say. But how do we as individual managers of remote workers build a trusting relationship with our remote subordinates? To answer this question,  we  turn to another research study. This separate study appearing also in the Harvard Business Review explains the methods by which business partners can establish trust with business partners from other cultures and countries. We can use this information to craft our own personal strategy.

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Search Remotely Trust Building Tips: Remote Managers and Supervisors

Here are the recommendations to remote managers for building a trusting relationship with their remote workforce:

  1. Begin with the belief that everyone can be trusted until they show you that they can’t be trusted.
  2. Trust your peers, partners, colleagues and subordinates, but always take steps to verify.
  3. Adopt the habit of starting the day with the mantra, “people are inherently good.”
  4. Incorporate test items into a conversation by asking a question to which you know the answer and see if you receive a truthful response.
  5. Become less reliant upon whether you like a person or not and more adept at using reason and logic to evaluate their abilities.
  6. Analyze their past performance and track record.
  7. Use referrals and reputational information from third party sources to access someone’s reliability and trustworthiness.
  8. Find informal ways to assess their formal and informal interactions with their peers. If their peers consider them trustworthy, they probably are.
  9. Double check and cross reference any negative information uncovered.
  10. Take any opportunity to interact socially and gauge how you feel before, during and after the contact has been made.

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We are one of the world’s leading online and specialist remote team recruitment platform.  Helping employers and their remote managers and supervisors lead top performing remote teams is one of our primary goals.

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