Long before COVID-19 forced virtually all technologists to work from home, managers everywhere wrestled with the best ways to manage their remote teams. For those team leaders used to in-person check-ins and standups, effectively supervising those remote workers without becoming too overbearing could transform into an especially fraught exercise.
The pandemic, by virtue of locking everyone away for more than a year, only exacerbated some of these longstanding issues. Blind, which regularly surveys a large pool of anonymous technologists about a range of issues, recently asked its audience whether COVID-19 had impacted their relationship with their boss. On a company-by-company level, it’s clear that many technologists saw their relations with their manager turn negative over the past year:
Overall, some 54 percent of respondents said the relationship had turned negative, versus 24 percent who said it’d become more positive and 22 percent who said it had remained neutral. While Blind’s sample size is fairly small (1979 respondents overall, and a few hundred to a few dozen per listed company), it’s pretty clear that many technologists aren’t happy with how their relationships with their managers are going.
The pandemic has been a stressful time for everyone, with a many technologists reporting an inability to effectively maintain a work-life balance. That could intensify some of the longstanding issues with remote work, especially with regard to management. Way back in 2017, for instance, Harvard Business Review (HBR) polled 1,153 employees and found that many remote employees felt targeted, isolated, and ignored: “Workplace politics are more pervasive and difficult, and when conflicts arise they have a harder time resolving them.”
That HBR article advised managers to communicate more with remote workers, suggesting that increased communication generally translated into a more successful relationship. However, every company runs its communications and check-ins differently, which can make it difficult for even the most well-meaning manager to figure out the “right” cadence and tone.
In the midst of COVID-19, many managers probably feared that their technologists’ productivity would decline. Indeed, surveys featured a sizable percentage of technologists saying that their productivity had dropped while working remotely. Pandemic-related burnout also has a sizable impact on technologists’ ability to deliver their work product. These are all issues also solved with communication (paired with adequate follow-ups, such as an adjustment in workloads or more team-socialization opportunities); that being said, it’s clear from Blind’s data that some managers aren’t taking the necessary steps to address these and other issues that technologists might have.