MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Why Leaders Resist Empowering Virtual Teams

  • 13m
  • Bradley L. Kirkman, Lauren D’Innocenzo, Payal N. Sharma
  • MIT Sloan Management Review
  • 2021

For Indira, a midlevel manager in the financial services industry, leading a virtual team has been stressful. Now that everyone no longer works in the same office space, opportunities for spontaneous check-ins are limited, so it’s tough to know exactly how or when people are having trouble doing their jobs. As a result, Indira worries that she can’t effectively support her team. She also says her “real work” begins after a long day of video meetings. By the time she’s able to focus on her independent tasks and bigger-picture thinking, she’s burned out, and it’s difficult to be productive.

Indira is not alone. We’ve heard many stories like hers over the past few years in our interviews with hundreds of remote leaders in a range of roles and industries. And studies show that such leaders associate a host of problems (both real and perceived) with all-virtual interactions. For instance, they cite technical difficulties, constrained access to information and resources, distractions at home, social isolation, and ever-blurrier work-life boundaries. These issues won’t simply disappear after the global COVID-19 pandemic dies down, because for many businesses and employees, remote work isn’t going away. According to recent surveys, over 80% of business leaders plan to keep at least a partial work-from-home arrangement in place, and executives expect a 30% reduction in physical office space.

About the Author

Payal N. Sharma is an assistant professor of management at Lee Business School at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Lauren D’Innocenzo is an associate professor of organizational behavior and Provost Solutions fellow at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

Bradley L. Kirkman (@bradleylkirkman) is the General (Ret.) H. Hugh Shelton Distinguished Professor of Leadership at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.

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  • MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Why Leaders Resist Empowering Virtual Teams