Let’s Agree to Disagree

One of the most refreshing qualities about Ali is a bit unexpected: she’s comfortable disagreeing. Of course, she handles it with tact, thoughtful questioning, and positive intent. But in a world pulled towards duality where you’re either pro or against something, it’s nice to handle complex topics with the nuance they deserve.

On that note, let’s recap Ali’s latest interview on The Digital Workplace podcast, a podcast hosted by Neil Miller featuring conversations around Remote Teams, Culture, and Leadership. The subject? 5 things the experts disagree about for remote work.

Let’s agree to potentially disagree and jump into some excerpts from Ali’s interview. As you read along, put a stake in the ground. What do you think?

Statement #1: Employees do not need managers in truly distributed teams.

Ali’s Hot Take: Disagree

I think that with this new world of working and distributed teams, we need to redefine what a manager is. So “manager” no longer has to be the person dangling a carrot or a happiness stick waiting for employees to comply with the when, where, how, and the value of your work. People management I think, is incredibly important in distributed teams.

These people act as your wayfare, helping you navigate an organization and making sure that someone in the organization truly knows and cares about you. They know your career goals and can help you structure your goals and connect with the right people in a distributed organization to ensure you’re getting what you need to be happy and succeed.

Statement #2: Teams should delay working out most conflicts until they can be in person.

Ali’s Hot Take: Disagree

Because I’m detail-oriented, so in-person, waiting to be with each other, that could be weeks, months, or we’ve seen in the past few years, years. So if you’re waiting for that can delay a resolution. It could be something that is just an honest miscommunication. If you can resolve it quickly, why let those feelings linger and delay a resolution? It can let things fester. So if you’re waiting and you’re not talking about the conflict, it can impact trust. Trust is such a core value for remote work. It can create silent disengagement. So people have easy ways to hide in remote work. They can join video calls with their cameras off. They can disengage from things like the online water coolers. If it’s because there was a personal conflict and they feel uncomfortable, it’s harder for others to know that that has happened and come up with a resolution.

Statement #3: Teams often waste time when they write up documentation for every tool. Just trust people to be adults.

Ali’s Hot Take: Disagree

Documentation is so important. People aren’t used to doing it, so they don’t think about it as part of their workflow. People need to think about documentation as cleaning up while they cook, not cleaning up after they cook.

When you have a new employee, they have one place they can go to learn everything and read the history and really immerse themselves in the company. They don’t need to track down all these people and have all these different synchronous meetings. If someone leaves the company, they’re not taking away all of the company's knowledge. So there’s no single source of failure. Transparencies are then baked into your company culture because you’re documenting things. It can help with decision-making because you can quickly learn why you made a decision, what thought processes you used, and what got you here. It makes asynchronous communication easier because things are already written down in part of your workflow.

Statement #4: Establishing when a team works together, when their synchronous time overlaps, is more important than where they work from, whether from home or as a nomad or from an office or a co-working space. What do you think?

Ali’s Hot Take: Agree

Yeah, I would say the one caveat for the where, and this is me putting my HR hat on, is if you don’t have a remote work policy or a digital nomad policy in place, you might want to consider it because it’s important for things, like knowing what employees are allowed to expense, how your company is setting themselves up for compliance and tax. But otherwise, I would say team norms and setting expectations for things that impact one another are more important.

I would take it a step further, though. I would define what and why you need the synchronous time. What is the unique value of being together at the same time? What’s the goal? And how are you going to reach that goal? But I’m just a big stickler for asynchronous.

Statement #5: Goals and objectives change so often in some teams that creating productivity output metrics is counterproductive.

Ali’s Hot Take: Disagree

This sounds like an excuse to me.

I think managers and leaders should approach this is to break objectives down into projects where projects have clear definitions of done and success metrics attached defined upfront. That way, you know, are we hitting these certain milestones? Are things on track? When are we actually going to call this project completed?

The alternative to the status quo is that we work 40 hours a week. But what does that mean? What is productivity in that scenario either? I think that is worse.

Check out the podcast here or on your favorite podcast player: https://thedigitalworkplace.com/podcasts/ali-greene/