Many teams of people accustomed to working together face-to-face are now compelled to work from home because of the pandemic. Because they're working from home, these teams are now virtual teams. As described last time, this new virtual configuration affects workplace politics, and in particular, it affects the politics of meetings. But it has other political effect as well. Here are three more ways the new virtuality affects workplace politics.
- Where you live matters much less
- Because work-from-home is so much more common in a pandemic, choosing where to live is a little more complicated. If you're commuting less often to an office, then for the time being, your choices of where to live might expand — in some cases, dramatically. If you have flexibility, use it. Even if you elect not to change where you live, some of your colleagues might. Because that choice can affect you, be alert to these possibilities.
- Similar calculations apply when searching for employment. In nonpandemic times, some employers valued on-site work much more highly than they value it now. You might be able now to find an employer who's very comfortable with your working remotely, even if you had difficulties finding such employers in the past. If you're willing and able to work remotely, the number of employment opportunities can be vastly greater than they otherwise would be.
- In time, we can expect this phenomenon to affect compensation. People who live in high-compensation areas will be more likely to be working alongside those living in low-compensation areas. Because employers usually try to keep compensation equitable across work teams, a leveling process might occur if the effects of the pandemic are long lasting.
- Appearance matters, but in new ways
- Personal appearance does matter, as much as it mattered before the pandemic. But when work-from-home is in effect, what matters most is your video appearance in exchanges mediated by Zoom, MS Teams, or whatever software your employer uses. If you're engaged in interviewing for a new position, similar considerations apply to prospective employers.
- For most, dress is a notch less formal — not less than that — for work-from-home than it was for work-at-work. In all other respects, for dress, there is little change.
- But there are other changes. For example, relative stature — your height compared to others — can affect your ability to influence others, especially those who don't know you well. [Stulp 2015] [Stulp 2013] But in the virtual environment, height isn't evident. People who are taller than most others are likely to experience a loss of advantage; people who are shorter than most others are likely to experience a loss of disadvantage.
- Attend Your height compared to others can
affect your ability to influence
others, especially those
who don't know you wellto the background of your video image. Bedrooms are unprofessional. Choose a space at home that looks as close to businesslike as you can make it.
- The online disinhibition effect is more important
- According to psychologist John Suler, a contributing cause of destructive conflict in the virtual environment is the online disinhibition effect (ODE). [Suler 2004] [Brenner 2015] Briefly, virtual environments inherently weaken inhibitions that limit socially offensive behavior.
- One factor contributing to the ODE is what psychologists call dissociative anonymity. In the virtual environment, compared to real life, the connection between our personhood and our social actions is weaker. This weakened connection — dissociation — creates a sense of psychological freedom that enables us to say or do (or not say or not do) things that we wouldn't (or would) otherwise.
- The implications of the ODE for person-to-person interactions include elevated probability of toxic conflict. If you expect difficulty in interactions between yourself and others, be aware that those difficulties are more likely in the virtual environment. Prepare yourself. Consciously choose not to engage or respond unless the issue at hand truly merits such action. Choose instead to wait if you can. Others might step in, or the issue might otherwise resolve itself.
Perhaps one can derive the most significant political advantage from recognizing that teams of people who work from home are in every sense virtual teams, even if all members worked face-to-face, in the same suite of offices, before the pandemic. For example, someone who relies on daily or nearly daily face-to-face confidential chats with political allies could expect to encounter some difficulty in the virtual environment. To continue to interact with each other as if face-to-face interactions were available when they are not is to risk miscommunication and confusion from which recovery can be most difficult. First in this series Top Next Issue
Are your virtual meetings plagued by inattentiveness, interruptions, absenteeism, and a seemingly endless need to repeat what somebody just said? Do you have trouble finding a time when everyone can meet? Do people seem disengaged and apathetic? Or do you have violent clashes and a plague of virtual bullying? Read Leading Virtual Meetings for Real Results to learn how to make virtual meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot shorter. Order Now!
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More articles on Virtual and Global Teams:
- Virtual Presentations
- Modern team efforts almost certainly involve teleconferences, and many teleconferences include presentations,
often augmented with video or graphics. Delivering these virtual presentations effectively requires
an approach tailored to the medium.
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges
do they face, and what can we do about them?
- Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
- When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the
recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
- Virtual Teams Need Generous Travel Budgets
- Although virtual team members who happen to be co-located do meet from time to time, meetings of people
who reside at different sites are often severely restricted by tight or nonexistent travel budgets.
Such restrictions, intended to save money, can contribute to expensive delays and errors.
- Remote Hires: Inquiry
- When knowledge workers join organizations as remote hires, they must learn what's expected of them and
how it fits with what everyone else is doing. This can be difficult when everyone is remote. A systematic
knowledge-based inquiry procedure can help.
See also Virtual and Global Teams and Conflict Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
- And on June 21: Asking Burning Questions
- When we suddenly realize that an important question needs answering, directly asking that question in a meeting might not be an effective way to focus the attention of the group. There are risks. Fortunately, there are also ways to manage those risks. Available here and by RSS on June 21.
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