How to Build Strong Relationships While Working Remotely
Since the start of the pandemic, career practitioners from educational institutions, non-profit employment services, and other sectors have joined their independent colleagues in working virtually. Even after adapting to the technology, many find it difficult to communicate effectively with others they haven’t met in person. If you can relate, the highlights of a conference session I attended some years ago may be helpful. In “Introduction to Working Remotely – Leading and Working in Virtual Teams,” Susan Gerke explored the issues that can surface when working remotely, how personality type relates to remote work, and how to build strong relationships with people of different types.
Challenges of Working with Clients Virtually
When we work with someone virtually, we may not have the same level or frequency of interaction, making it harder to build relationships. If the majority of communication is done via email, we miss important verbal and non-verbal cues that exist when we interact in person.
The Four Interaction Styles
Using the Berens’ Interaction Styles model, Gerke discussed the strengths and challenges of the In-Charge Interaction Style, the Chart-the-Course Interaction Style, the Get-Things-Going Interaction Style, and the Behind-the Scenes Interaction Style, when working remotely. For those of us new to the Berens model, Gerke indicated which four MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) types correlate to each of the four Interaction Styles.
In-Charge Interaction Style
The In-Charge Interaction Style (corresponding to ESTP, ESTJ, ENTJ and ENFJ) tend to be efficient independent workers, creating structure for themselves and making good use of technology. As extraverts, however, they miss the casual workplace conversation which enhances their productivity, and without face-to-face contact, it is difficult for them to form relationships.
Chart-the-Course Interaction Style
The Chart-the-Course Interaction Style (corresponding to ISTP, ISTJ, INTJ and INFJ) also work well independently. As introverts, these individuals work best without interruptions, and email and voice mail give them an opportunity to think about how they would like to respond. It is more difficult for them to stay connected with others and to make themselves heard. They may also tend to spend more time on email than is necessary.
Get-Things-Going Interaction Style
The Get-Things-Going Interaction Style (corresponding to ESFP, ESFJ, ENTP and ENFP) excel in virtual work because they can work any time, day or night, and multitask to their heart’s delight, without being judged by others for their work style. Their challenges include loneliness and isolation, and lack of structure.
Behind-the-Scenes Interaction Style
The Behind-the-Scenes Interaction Style (corresponding to ISFP, ISFJ, INTP and INFP) shares the Chart-the-Course Interaction Style’s strengths in terms of virtual work. Working remotely allows them to sit and think without people questioning them as to why they aren’t doing anything, and they tend to be more patient than other styles with the longer timeframes sometimes needed in this type of work arrangement. Being relationship-focused, they can be challenged by the loneliness of remote work and miss the body language that contributes to communication.
Building Good Virtual Relationships
It is vital to maintain regular contact and provide updates on all issues and projects, and Gerke offered a number of suggestions to help us do so, including:
- Take time to discuss non-work issues.
- Arrange regular meeting times.
- Find out what frequency and format of communication your clients and colleagues prefer.
- Keep track of your communications so you don’t lose touch with someone.
As Gerke described various communication styles associated with the Interaction Styles (directing versus informing, responding versus initiating), I had one of those “aha” moments we all experience when learning about type. Some time ago, a client was not satisfied with some work I had done for him, and I was having difficulty accepting his explanation. Once I realized that what I had taken as “direction” was merely “information,” I understood how the problem had occurred and have not made that mistake again.
You can learn more about the Interaction Styles Model at InterStrength.
Practice Virtual Relationship-Building
As a virtual organization since 2004, CPC offers its members many opportunities to build and grow online relationships and develop skills they can apply to their work with clients. Our Zoom Tele-Networking sessions are very popular and a wonderful opportunity for relationship-building. If you’re not a member and would like to participate in the next tele-networking event, join Career Professionals of Canada now.
Janet Barclay is a former employment counsellor who supports Career Professionals of Canada as technology manager, and many of its members with her web design services and website care plans. When she’s away from her desk, Janet enjoys reading, photography, cooking, watching movies, spending time with her family, and walking her dog.