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Analysis

Is technology contributing to a toxic remote working culture?

Is the technology you’re using contributing to a toxic remote working culture?

Donna DiDomenico

Strategist

Photo by @wdnesday via Twenty20

Unleash Your Leadership Culture Technology is an enabler for culture but what happens when most of the global workforce is working remotely?

  • When employees are not engaged, companies cannot perform and achieve their strategy.
  • Technology can intensify a toxic workplace culture by highlighting the lack of or trust between employers and employees.
  • But technology can also be the solution.

As teams grappled to become fully distributed overnight, many employers did what few before them had done successfully —  fuse offline and online culture in a way that worked for employers and employees.  

For many leaders used to presentism, losing sight of employees in offices meant losing visibility over their performance and productivity. This loss of control, and apparent lack of trust, can, in some instances, result in the emergence of a toxic working environment.  

Technology is often touted as an enabler when it comes to culture, and while this is true and certain AI developments are helping HR teams increase trust among employees, innovation can be a double-edged sword. 

In the online working world, technology can exacerbate common issues found in the offline workplace.  

Workplace gossip 

While we may have waved goodbye to “watercooler chats,” gossip is still happening in the online world.  

Online communication tools such as Slack or Microsoft teams allow employees to have private conversations via direct messages or private groups and channels, in a less visible way.  

Policing this behavior can be problematic. After all, employees should be afforded autonomy in the workplace, but it’s important to establish some ground rules so that the virtual office is a safe place for everyone involved.  

Virtual meetings  

We’ve all heard of, and probably suffered from ‘Zoom fatigue,’ over the past 12 months, and while online platforms have facilitated business online, it’s important to ensure that all employees are treated equally and with the same respect.  

report by Catalyst shows that working outside the office could also hurt women’s chances of feeling seen and heard at work. The nonprofit organization, which seeks to accelerate women into leadership positions, found that 45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in a virtual meeting. One in five also said they felt ignored or overlooked by their colleagues during video calls.  

Work-life balance 

While remote working has its benefits, employees can sometimes feel like they’re living at work.  

Being able to set boundaries, and ensuring that employees feel empowered to do so, is essential if they are to avoid feeling burnout.  

People leave managers not companies.

Tech: The solution

There’s no denying that the current working environment is challenging but, if used correctly, technology can help alleviate many of these problems.  

Technology can enable you to create anonymous online surveys to find out how people are feeling and where they might need additional help or support. Accessing this data is an incredibly powerful way to create a long-term strategy where employee culture and wellbeing are front and center.  

Collaboration and communication are essential for business survival in 2021. Tech can be an amazing tool to facilitate both. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tools until you find what works for your organization. You could, for example, have a system in place that enables every individual to speak up during a team call. Google Meet allows users to “raise their hand” if they want to speak up during a meeting.  

Use technology to bolster innovation. Create “idea hubs,” an anonymous virtual suggestion box where everyone can freely share ideas for the wider company’s consideration.  

Encourage the use of mental health and wellbeing tech solutions and apps.  

6 Golden Nuggets 

Our relationship with technology, as well as our leaders and employees can be easily adjusted for the better.  

These six steps will enable you to focus on mutual expectations and goals while guiding you to success: 

1) Always do and be your best. 
Your work and attitude represent who you are. Be authentic, genuine, and professional. Learn from your leader’s negative behaviors and never demonstrate them. 
2) Don’t react to a toxic leader.  
Say “thank you” for their feedback. Ask for suggestions of how you can improve. Take time to think through difficult situations and plan how you will respond. 
3) Document your goals, expectations, and timelines in a detailed plan.  
Present and discuss your plan with your leader for their agreement and approval. After this discussion, record changes and update your plan. Include dates, discussion notes, next steps, and agreements made. Share the updated plan with your leader through email to record the date and time that the communication was shared. Save the email for your records. Record goals and expectations in the company’s performance management system, if available. Documentation serves as a reminder of previous conversations and agreements when memories fail. Your work, attitude, and professionalism will be recognized by others and your contributions will be acknowledged. 
4) Communicate with your leader often.  
Schedule ongoing update meetings with your leader to review your plan, progress, successes and challenges or barriers. Ask for feedback on your performance. 
5) Document all interactions with your leader.  
Take good notes. In addition to the date and the time, identify everyone who participated in the conversation, how the conversation made you feel, and what was expected of you as a result of the conversation. Save all written communication from your leader. Emails, notes, recorded sessions, save everything. 
6) Be positive with your words as well as your body language when speaking with your leader – be authentic and genuine.  
Let your work and attitude represent who you are. 

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