Do you remember that old Bud Light commercial with featuring the steaming cup of coffee that tricked an employee's boss into thinking he was the first in the office and the last to leave and commenting on his commendable work ethic.
That commercial was funny because we all knew what it implied - bosses reward people for face time as opposed to actual performance.
Then, it should have come as no surprise when a debate started brewing when many organizations went remote a year and a half ago about whether remote workers could be trusted when they were out of sight.
Let's go back to that commercial for a minute. Sure, in that case, Johnson wasn't doing his job as evidenced by the alternative perspective the audience witnessed, but, here's a question: if it boss didn't recognize that Johnson wasn't doing his job, couldn't we say that he wasn't doing his job either?
That is to say, should managers be trusted to manage and lead teams if they have to watch their employees do their jobs in order to believe they're actually doing their jobs?
I was recently appalled reading an article about a company who forced all their staff to keep their cameras on at all times when they were forced to go remote.
AT ALL TIMES.
Any guesses if the author was still working for the company?
If you cannot trust your employees to do their jobs when you are not physically watching them, you have significantly more problems than whether or not they'll do their jobs if working remotely.
This is a hill I'm willing to die on.
They pick up on your lack of trust in them.
They won't trust you.
They pick up on your lack of confidence in yourself as a leader.
They won't have confidence in you.
They pick up on how they're expected to 'perform' to make sure you have the perception they're working.
They will 'perform'.
And it's often the ones who learn these performative tactics who are rewarded.
It's the reason the George Costanzas of the world keep getting promoted.
It's at this point in the article I can spout of all these statistics and research that show remote employees are actually more productive (it's true!), but we all know that seldom changes biases, perceptions, and beliefs. And there's just as much research showing we continue to reward those we like, we see, and we think are working hard.
What does this gap reveal?
It's not them. It's you.
Hard truths are hard to hear.
But if you're worried about whether or not your employees are doing their work when you're not around or catch yourself saying things like "the reality is that people will get passed over for promotions if they don't put in the face time", this is a time for self-reflection.
Here's the good news though. We have more control and influence over ourselves than over anyone else, so self reflection is a great place to start. And the crazy thing is, once we change our behaviors, beliefs, and perceptions, we can start to see a shift in others.
They pick up on your trust in them.
They'll trust you.
They pick up on your confidence in yourself as a leader.
They will have confidence in you as a leader.
They pick up on you focusing on the work getting done as opposed to how it's done.
They'll perform. Truly perform.
Some of you still want the stats, don't you?
I get it. I like to see the receipts too.
Take a look at these two articles from HBR and the Atlantic to provide insight and give you pause.
The Atlantic - What Bosses Really Think of Remote Workers