Remote worker feels ignored after a change in management.
Q: I’m a permanent home-based employee of a company. There are four home-based workers in my group, and others in satellite offices away from headquarters. We communicate via email and text messages, or sometimes by phone.
Six months ago, the manager who hired me was abruptly transferred. A few months after that, her replacement announced with great fanfare that our unit would now have monthly team meetings, which we remote workers would attend by videoconference.
An hour before the first meeting, the new manager told each of the home-based workers that an emergency had arisen and she had to cancel the meeting. There was no word about rescheduling — until two days later, when we received minutes to a team meeting that had happened in the interim, and listed us as absent!
When I emailed about dial-in information for the next meeting (with copies to my home-based colleagues) I got no answer. Finally, an email I sent to a different manager at the start of the meeting, including the entire team, resulted in me getting patched in — and scolded by my manager for several minutes about my email. I managed to get another left-out home worker included, too.
What should we remote workers do under these circumstances? I’ve changed jobs a lot in the last few years, and I don’t want to abandon this one too quickly. But I feel home-based workers like me are threatened now.
A: Your new supervisor doesn’t seem to be on board with the whole remote-worker idea. The question is whether she is out of step with broader company practices — or if her lukewarm attitude reflects some big-picture strategic shift.
Being a remote worker almost always means making an extra effort to remind bosses and colleagues that you exist, and that you’re doing useful work. That means making sure the lines of communication are as open as possible. Since digital communication can be so susceptible to misunderstanding, it’s important to make direct, human contact from time to time. So schedule a one-on-one phone chat.
Get a clear sense of what she needs from you, and ask directly how she wants you to keep in touch. But also make sure you convey how you’ve successfully collaborated with various project managers and make clear your contributions to the company’s goals. You want to make her life easier, not more complicated.
If it doesn’t violate company norms, contact the transferred boss who hired you, and perhaps some of those project managers. Don’t criticize the new boss, but seek advice on how to make sure your work remains on point and appreciated.
And keep alert for clues about the company’s broader attitude about remote workers. This might help you decide whether it’s better to concentrate on building a better rapport with your boss — or on looking for the best possible exit.
Submit questions to Rob Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.