Remote workers enjoy shared responsibility, but leaders resist empowering virtual teams – Drexel News Blog


At the start of the pandemic, the transition to virtual work environments was a challenge. The boundaries between work-life balance have blurred and employees have struggled to adjust to social isolation. Over a year later, many organizations have started moving their employees back to physical office spaces. But for most businesses, it seems like virtual environments, flexible working arrangements, and virtual teams are here to stay.

For those leading virtual teams, working remotely has brought a new challenge: how to effectively manage and empower teams while feeling pressured, exhausted and isolated. In an article published in MIT Sloan Management Review co-written by Lauren D’Innocenzo, PhD, Associate Professor of Management at LeBow College of Business at Drexel University, experts suggest remote leaders are adopting an empowering leadership style as a viable solution to some of the challenges they face. However, they found that while employee empowerment is linked to increased job satisfaction, a commitment to self-efficacy, creativity and performance, leaders often resist this approach, especially when ‘they manage people remotely.

“Whether or not they thought they had good control over their team before moving to virtual work, leaders tend to fear handing over power and control to employees and taking risks in a virtual environment where they cannot. observe people directly, ”said D. ‘Innocenzo.

The authors identify three main reasons why leaders resist empowering remote team members. These are issues of motivation, perceived loss of control, and fears about risk.

Taking into account what motivates people to lead, previous research has suggested that some leaders are motivated by emotional motivation – they like to do it; some by a social-normative motivation, or a sense of a duty to lead, and others are motivated by a non-calculative motivation where they see the benefits of leading others and pursue them. The authors found that when a leader is missing from any of these three categories, they resist empowering a team. This is made more striking in virtual environments, where some leaders feel less visible and responsible to the organization.

Leaders who believe they have the ability to control their destiny are more likely to empower employees, while those who don’t think they have as much control over the events of their lives will also delegate less. And in virtual environments, where a lot can go wrong with technology, the fear of losing control can be exacerbated, according to the authors.

Finally, concerns about risk play a critical role in managers’ reluctance to delegate work. Leaders who see their goals as stepping stones to advancement, and focus on the rewards that will help them achieve those goals, are more likely to share responsibility. In contrast, people who are more prevention-oriented and see goals as responsibilities that they must fulfill, focus on loss minimization and safety. This type of leader would be less likely to hold employees accountable.

The authors recommend key strategies for organizations to reduce leadership resistance to empowering virtual teams. These involve tackling some of the motivation, control and risk issues and visual stressors that get in the way.

The authors recommend that organizations help leaders regain their joy in leading and strengthen their motivation to lead by facilitating richer exchanges and stronger bonds between team members. Even small adjustments, like having team members turn on their cameras in virtual meetings or having short one-on-one meetings to talk about what’s going on in people’s lives, can help create relationships that will inspire leaders to invest in employees. If leaders can’t bring themselves to delegate until they believe their teams are ready, the authors recommend that team members encourage employee volunteerism to develop their skills.

When leaders are not overworked and exhausted by stressors from a distance, they are better able to focus on themselves, which is why the authors recommend that organizations have strong guidelines or formal policies for promote a better work-life balance at all levels.

To encourage remote leaders to be more promotion-oriented and less risk averse so that they support team member growth, the authors suggest organizations take a more holistic view of time spent at work and ‘Consider imposing time off on executives, such as a fixed number of days every few months.

“Their periodic absence also requires leaders to allow employees to step up and take care of certain tasks so that they can become more competent and confident. The more that happens, the less risky and useful it will be for leaders to delegate, ”D’Innoncenzo said.

The authors acknowledge that remote leaders have a lot to deal with from a distance, but argue that leaders can make things more manageable by encouraging and allowing others to step up rather than repress and assert control over their teams. .

“By empowering others to grow, leaders can empower themselves to see bigger, accomplish more, and breathe easier,” the authors wrote.

The article, “Why Leaders Resist Empowering Virtual Teams,” was published in the MIT Sloan Management Review and is available at this connect.

Media interested in speaking with D’Innoncenzo should contact Niki Gianakaris, Executive Director of Media Relations, at [email protected] or 215-895-6741.

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