How To Be Successful With A Boss Who Is Far Away

When you don't work with your boss, how can you look good to them?
When you don’t work with your boss, how can you look good to them?
Image Credit: Anjan Chatterjee

The nature of what it really means to “go to work” has been changing for a long time. Nowadays there is a very good chance that you and your boss may not work in the same office. You (or your boss) may work from home or be operating out of a different office. What this means for you as an IT manager is that the toughest long-distance relationship that you are going to be involved in may be with your boss!

Why A Remote Relationship Can Be So Hard To Manage

We all have a lot of relationships in our lives. What makes having one with a boss who is somewhere else so hard to do? One of the reasons that this kind of arrangement can be so hard to manage is that despite your IT manager skills, you don’t have the IT manager training to set up ground rules and expectations at the start of the relationship. What needs to be established is an agreement about what needs to be communicated and when it needs to be communicated.

I have had a chance to work in this type of situation and I must confess that I’ve made all of the most common mistakes. One of these is that when it’s time to communicate with your boss, you tend to default to your old standby form of office communication: email. The problem with this is that depending on what type of information (and with what type of urgency) you need to communicate, there are times that it would be better if you picked up the phone.

There is another down side to this type of arrangement. Since your boss can’t see you working, sometimes they assume that you are not working. What this leads to is bosses who turn into micromanagers and bosses who start to second guess your decisions. A boss who doesn’t know if you are working may also start to pester you for updates all of the time. The downside to all of this is that your boss may end up judging your work more harshly because they can’t see everything that goes into it.

How To Make A Remote Relationship Work

So if you find yourself in a situation where your boss is somewhere else, what can you do to make the relationship work? The first thing that you are going to have to realize that that you are going to have to stay more in touch with your boss, not less. You are also going to have to spend some time thinking about how you want to get in touch with your boss. You have a lot of different options: texts, emails, calls, or even video conferences. You’ll need to pick the right tool for the message that you are trying to convey.

In order to make this relationship work out, you need to take it upon yourself to schedule a weekly 20 minute one-on-one call with your boss. The purpose of this call will be to update your boss, report on any progress that you’ve made, and, if needed, ask for help. This call is very important to your relationship with your boss because it will help to develop the kind of trust and familiarity that normally develops between people who work in the same office.

In order to make sure that you have the best relationship possible with your boss, what you are going to need to do is to build trust with them. It is going to be your responsibility to show them that you are both reliable and likeable. Since they can’t see you working, you are going to have to make sure that you always deliver on what you’ve promised. In those rare cases where you are not going to be able to do this, then you’ve got to make it crystal clear why you are not going to be able to deliver what was promised.

What All Of This Means For You

Now that we’re all living in the 21st Century, it is no longer a requirement that we all work side by side. This has led to situations where IT managers are located in one place while their boss is located somewhere else. This type of arrangement means that you are going to have to work even harder to create a good working relationship with your boss – think of this as a form of IT team building.

The reason that having you and your boss in two separate locations can be so hard on you is because neither of you may have taken the time to set up ground rules that would define how the relationship should work. All too often when it’s time to communicate with your boss, you’ll turn to your email tool and send a message. This is not always the right choice. Since your boss can’t see you working, he or she may start to micromanage you. In order to make a remote working arrangement work out, you are going to have to take charge. You’ve got a lot of different ways to get in touch with your boss and you’ll have to pick the right one. You need to have a 20-minute call each week with your boss to keep him or her in the loop. Ultimately, it all comes down to you building a sense of trust with your boss.

Having a remote working relationship with your boss can be a great thing. You are provided with a great deal of flexibility. However, with this comes an additional set of responsibilities that you now have to manage and maintain this relationship. You need to take the lead and make sure that your boss knows what you are doing and supports you. If you can build a sense of trust with them, then this can turn out to be a great remote partnership.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that you have to be in a remote relationship before you can evaluate how well it is going?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A little competition in the workplace can’t be a bad thing, can it? Generally speaking, no; however, as with all such things in life there are some exceptions. One such exception is when you find yourself facing a hypercompetitive coworker. You know who I’m talking about: it’s that person in your office who wants to win at all costs. What are you going to do when you come up against them?