How do managers’ relationships with their underlings change when all communication has been relegated online?
For one thing, just because your boss is effective in the office does not make them good at managing people online. “In remote working contexts, different forms of leadership are more successful,” says Emma Russell, senior lecturer in occupational and organizational psychology at the University of Sussex Business School. For instance, Russell suggests that highly successful digital teams designate project-specific managers rather than leaning into rigid hierarchies.“This indicates that virtual working has the capacity to generate flattened hierarchical structures.”
Recent research also shows that managing digitally calls for different personality types. Unlike in person management, being a charismatic extrovert is not likely to help a manager in a virtual setting. Managers who are helpful, generous, organized, and give feedback freely are seen as better leaders, while charm and intelligence are more impactful in offline contexts, according to the researchers, who noted that the difference between what made a good leader online versus offline was “stark.”
In managing online, patience is key, as communication is often delayed and technology can break down, rendering interaction impossible. Unfortunately, patience is a quality many managers lack, which can cause a lot of problems on virtual teams.
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