Andrew Jackson – December 29, 2020
In the fourth post of his DFW SIM Fellows blog series on employment and management issues, BravoTECH President and Co-founder Andrew C. Jackson identifies some of the work personas that emerged in 2020.
After our transition to a remote work environment, I began to notice the different ways individuals adapted to working from home. While I am not a psychologist and don’t claim any scientific knowledge in this area, here are the four main work personas I’ve observed from a management perspective.
- The Reluctant Competent
These employees are doing the work and meeting expectations, but miss the social aspects of the office and the structure it provides. You can keep these employees in a remote setting indefinitely, but make sure to schedule frequent “office-like” activities, including virtual meetings, spontaneous check-ins and networking opportunities, so they do not miss an office so much that they leave you to find it.
- The Reluctant Incompetent
Reluctant Incompetents may be great employees in an office environment, but they are just not wired for remote work. They are trying to survive, but the distractions and lack of structure make them uncomfortable and they are not succeeding. Try to get these employees back into an office environment as quickly as possible, because they will either continue to struggle or leave.
- The Willing Incompetent
These are the people who enjoy the freedom of remote work so much they will actively avoid returning to the structure and accountability of an office setting. They may put on a good face and present an image of confidence and success, but they are in reality accomplishing very little. They may try to take credit for co-workers’ accomplishments or exaggerate their own efforts to cover their incompetence. Some do have a history of remote work – but what they will not have is a successful history of completed projects or long-term engagements. If you suspect you have one of these personas on your team, one-on-one discussions should help you identify the problem. Their co-workers know who they are and are often willing to point them out. Isolate and deal with this type as quickly as possible. When hiring new team members for remote work, include questions about projects they successfully completed without much help from others.
- The Willing Competent (k.a. The Natural)
These are employees who succeed in any work environment and work to overcome any obstacle you put before them. In many cases these types have a history of remote or independent work and can produce superior results with little or no help from management. They may clock more hours than the rest of your team or work unusually late or early hours to get around distractions or personal obligations at home. These individuals are dream employees because they have adapted so well to a remote environment – but they also know their potential and probably enjoy the flexibility of working from home. To avoid losing them to a competitor, be cautious about forcing them back into an office setting and make sure you rewarded them for their success.
A few takeaway points:
- Assess your team to determine their remote work personas.
- Get the first two types of back into an office ASAP and work on re-establishing the culture and structure they need to be successful.
- Establish policies and well-defined deliverables to weed out Willing Incompetents. In meetings, assign tasks with firm due dates and clear responsibilities – then follow up and hold them accountable. Make sure your interview process prevents you from adding these types to your team.
- Nurture your high-achievers; they have the talent to keep you afloat and take your team to new heights. If your firm has embraced remote workers as an ongoing strategy, you have the opportunity to expand your capabilities by searching for more of these types outside your geographic area.
I look forward to hearing your observations on this topic and the others in this series. Happy Holidays!