Virtual Leadership: Dealing With Managers Who Resist “Work from Home”

Even with the massive workplace changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, do you still have “old school” Senior Leaders who refuse to allow people to work from home (WFH) or acknowledge that it is a viable option for running a business?  If so, is there a way to coach them to “see the light?”  Maybe, or maybe not.  But here is your best shot at winning them over.

As mentioned frequently in the press, the clear evidence about the benefits of telecommuting is very compelling.  Step One may be as simple as showing managers the statistical ROI-based proof that working from home makes sense for both employer and worker.  For example, having a good WFH policy is linked to lower absenteeism and higher engagement. A Gallup study proved that not only do virtual employees work an average of four hours longer per workweek than people who go to the company site, but also that these workers are more engaged: 32% versus 28% engaged.  The ability to work from home can also be a powerful way to attract top talent, especially Millennials who value autonomy and scheduling flexibility.  With this in mind, it is not surprising that 82 percent of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” already have work-from-home policies.

When old school managers learn the facts about working from home and they still can’t support it, step two is to assess whether the real issue is Trust.

Terrific “new school” virtual managers don’t beat around the bush when it comes to the trust issue; they tackle it boldly and directly by doing one simple thing: They let go. Extraordinary virtual managers know that in order to let go and fully trust their employees, they must be very scrutinizing and careful during the talent selection process. By hiring only people they innately trust from the get-go, great virtual managers start out on the right foot with new hires and support their autonomy. If working virtually is only a privilege for tenured employees, these managers choose their most trustworthy employees to work from home.

Virtual managers who cannot let go and continue to micro-manage, annoyingly checking in or checking up on their remote employees, will damage trust in their organization, and they have no one to blame but themselves. Likely, these managers hover over their team in the same manner even when working on site.

In this situation, they should turn the reflective mirror back on themselves and consider whether they have a trust issue or a hiring and talent acquisition problem. Simply put, managers are wary of trusting employees for two possible reasons:

  • The manager is paranoid.
  • Employees evoke little reason to be trusted.

In either case, the manager is at fault.  It is quite possible they hired the wrong people, which shows an even deeper problem.  If managers cannot hire the right people and trust them, then maybe they are in the wrong position. Such managers should be re-cast into different roles that do not have virtual direct reports and/or hiring responsibilities.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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