Category: Coworkers

How to Have a Hard Conversation When You’re Remote

CoworkersStress ManagementTelecommutingTravelWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Hopefully you have a job (remote or not!) that you enjoy most of the time, find fulfillment in, and interact with engaging and supportive colleagues. But even the most satisfied professionals have bad days and are faced with difficult situations.

But what happens when a bad day or difficult situation goes beyond a one time occurrence? Maybe a colleague continually undercuts your ideas or intentionally leaves you out of conversations, your management team is not providing the support and runway you need to grow, or perhaps a direct report is challenging you in inappropriate ways.

While it can be intimidating, when a problem arises in the working world you must face it head on. But factor in the distance of working remotely or from a different office and it can be even more difficult.

So how do you handle this? Here are 6 tips to have a difficult conversation when you’re not in the office.

1. Have a live conversation

Intonation and inflection matter so avoid email or IM. Give the person and the situation the courtesy it deserves and have a conversation. One challenge of not being in the office is not being able to simply pop by someone’s desk or office. If you need to connect with someone who has a challenging schedule send a short email indicating you’d like to discuss a specific topic, succinctly say what that topic is, and grab time on that person’s calendar.

2. Come prepared

Clear, concise thoughts are much more powerful than spouting out grievances. Spend time detailing what the situation and problem at hand is; have short examples that you can cite if pressed. Then spend time thinking about what you believe the remedy should be. Especially if you’re going to an executive with an issue one of the first questions she is likely to you is how it can be fixed. You don’t have to have the full solution but you don’t want to fumble over your words here.

3. Remember your EQ

Along with being prepared for the conversation, your thoughts on how something can improve, and setting up the best environment possible for the discussion, don’t forget to bring your EQ or emotional intelligence. EQ is most certainly one of the professional buzzwords of the day but it’s for good reason: it matters. There are loads of different definitions out there, but one way I like to think about it particularly in terms of a difficult conversation is being a full person. When you have to face conflict, especially if there’s an added barrier like different offices or a remote worker, keep in mind that we’re all people. This person who has been seemingly actively keeping you out of a project might have some very real fears about his job security, heightened by the new baby he just had. You certainly don’t want to look past issues, but it’s important to aim to see the full picture, especially when you’re not experiencing the “full picture” of the office each day.

4. Get clear on your expectations

Before any big conversation (work meeting, personal chat, you name it!) you should have an idea of what you’re looking for as a result. You can’t control what the answer or other person’s point of view will be, but you can have an idea of what you will discuss and come to resolution on. Additionally you can have an idea of what you would like in your ideal situation. It’s important to have an understanding and idea of this going into a challenging conversation, especially one you’re driving.

5. Ask for feedback

You’re not perfect. Having a difficult situation to should remind you of the fact that no one is perfect. Talking about something unideal is a great time to learn more about how you can grow and improve as a professional. Plus asking for feedback will demonstrate to your counterpart that you’re

6. If it’s a really sensitive matter and you can, travel.

Some things–when possible–are best done in person. If you’re dealing with a highly sensitive subject, or need to involve upper management, or simply need to be able to look someone in the eye during a conversation do it in person if you can. Trust your gut and if you feel it’s necessary–and it’s possible with your work setup–make the trip.

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How have you handled a difficult situation when not being in the office?

How to Build Strong Relationships With Colleagues When Remote

CoworkersTelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

When you work remotely a big challenge can be building strong relationships with your colleagues. This can be hard even when you do go into an office every day! But without sharing a work space you don’t have the opportunity to grow a friendship over the coffee machine, lunches, or after hours drinks.

We’re social creatures by nature but beyond the instinct for human connection, not having a strong relationship with the people you work with can work hurt you. We’ve all heard about the positive impacts having a “work best friend” brings with it. On top of this being friendly with a coworker may make it more likely for information to be shared with you or that you are top of mind when a new project comes up. It’s often not to be deceitful, it’s simply that people gravitate towards interacting with those who they enjoy.

This holds true not just for my fellow remote workers. Anyone who works at a company with multiple offices or who works with external vendors and spends a lot of time on the phone or emailing them can relate to the challenge, but very real need, to forge a relationship virtually.

So how do you do it? Here are my 6 go-to ways to begin to grow a strong working relationship when you don’t share a work-space with someone:

  1. Try. In my experience the number one way you can build a strong relationship with coworkers while remote is to put in the effort. Really try: ask questions. Remember answers and ask follow ups. Find common ground.
  2. Be friendly, in a way genuine to you. Going hand-in-hand with trying is to be friendly. It amazes me how quickly people in the workplace forget what a long way kindness goes. I’m friendly, open, and genuinely interested in people. I understand that not everyone is me so maybe being a gregarious version of yourself isn’t right for you. That’s okay, you don’t need to become overnight obsessed with your coworkers (in fact, don’t…) but you do need make an effort to be a person who others want to engage with.
  3. Walk around and talk with your hands. Maybe you’re thinking, “I get it. I need to work on this, but how exactly might I actually change this behavior?” One of my secrets is to actually pretend I’m engaging with someone in person. I walk around, I talk with my hands, I let me body talk the way it would if I were in fact face-to-face with someone.
  4. Capitalize on face-time. If you travel at all with coworkers or to different offices make the most of this time. Plan in advance: share your travel plans with those you work with, schedule time with colleagues, set up lunches and dinners. It will make your work trip more exhausting but think of all the energy you save while not working in an office regularly!
  5. Make real talk. I hate small talk. I especially hate small talk for the first 5 minutes of a 30 minute call when I have a busy day. What don’t I hate? Real talk for the first few minutes of a call even when I have a busy day. Why? Because I believe that being part of a social society, a team, a company, a working relationship requires asking questions and getting to know someone over time. Don’t spend 20 minutes talking about your weekends but do put in effort to slowly get to know those you work with, over time this will build up to a relationship.
  6. Suck it up. Maybe this concept is exhausting to you. Maybe you actually do not care about your coworkers. My response to that is simple: suck it up. You’re on a team–or at least engage with others daily,  you’re a member of a social society, you need to care about this stuff, and if you just don’t care you need to suck it up a few times a day or week.

All relationships require effort. Just because you share a cube wall with someone doesn’t mean you’ll be best friends and just because you work 1,000 miles away from someone doesn’t mean you can’t be close. Each requires effort.

What ways have you found to help form relationships while working from home? Share in the comments below.