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The Coach: ‘I suspect one of our team is taking advantage of remote working’

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Matthew Turner advises a manager who thinks an employee isn’t pulling their weight while working from home during the lockdown

I manage a team for our busy practice, whose workload has barely eased up during the coronavirus. We are working remotely, but I suspect one team member is taking advantage. Truth be told, I am scared to approach them as they tend to be evasive and defensive. How should I handle this? 

Matthew turner

Matthew turner

There is a fine line here, as managers really need to make allowance for the considerable disruption to work life that working from home represents.

You don’t explain the situation fully, but this colleague may have a challenging house share situation, caring duties, or mental health issues and, as an employer, you have a duty of care, heightened in the current circumstances. 

Ultimately you should disentangle the emotional reaction to this person, and concentrate on the actual workload and responsibilities.

You do mention that the person in question isn’t attending your meetings. So – coolly but politely – set out your expectations for the next time, and take note of what happens.

You don’t mention whether they are getting the work done, or whether their workload is clear to them? You are paid to manage, and this is where you earn your money.

It could be that this person is exploiting the situation, as you suspect. Or it may well be that you have a negative bias against them that they pick up on, which influences your interactions. Or that you have not sufficiently delegated, or clarified their role.

If you sense you cannot resolve this, given the remote working situation, you might be wise to swallow any pride and request a second input to managing this person, from another manager, or the partners.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. Email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com.

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