Virtual Teams: Can it create or break micromanagement?

There have been several learnings over the past year in regards to how to work virtually. I am sure that a lot of companies have some positive and some less so stories that they could share.  For companies that are not used to working in virtual teams, it has been a steep learning curve.

Managing a remote workforce is a difficult task. You must actively coordinate and lead a team of people from various places, time zones, cultures and backgrounds.  Not to mention the different personalities, cultures and possibly even languages. Without any means to physically walk over team members’ desks to check in on them, it’s tempting to feel like you need to know what they’ve been up to all the time. However, the persistent demand for status reports, along with over-communication, may often lead to micromanagement, transforming you into a remote micromanager.  If you are a manager who is used to being in control and being fully aware of your team, there is a huge risk to over-micromanage people who you can not see.  

Some companies have installed spyware on their computers and systems so they can closely monitor what people are doing at home.  Some companies put scanning software on their systems to scan the computer of the person using it every few minutes.  Big Brother is watching. 

How do you tell if you’re becoming a micromanager or if your employer is? 

If you see yourself or your supervisor focusing on subtleties, needing to be copied on emails and rarely happy with your team’s performance, then you are a micromanager or your boss is one. However, we recognise that managing a remote team has unique challenges that should be considered since you must coordinate and manage individuals from various nations, time zones, cultures, and backgrounds. 

So the issue is whether virtual teams or remote work make or break micromanagement. We feel that the solution should be determined by the team leaders. Building trust with individuals you’ve never met is difficult in the absence of face-to-face contact. But if you believe that transitioning to a virtual workplace implies exercising even more control over your colleagues than when they’re all in the office, you should be concerned: it’s a sign that you don’t understand work and professional relationships and are a micromanager.

Many organisations will continue to utilise virtual work as a steady road ahead, while others will return to conventional onsite employment. The long-term macro trend of new generations wanting more physical flexibility for a portion or all of their workday will strive. Management, on the other hand, may excel in this flexible workplace trend. Simply by tweaking their tactics and tools, they may boost rather than diminish team productivity.

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