Think Working From Home Won’t Hurt Your Career? Don’t Be So Sure
Kanebridge News
Share Button

Think Working From Home Won’t Hurt Your Career? Don’t Be So Sure

Many companies are letting employees stay home some or all of the time, but workers who frequent the office might get ahead.

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 10, 2022 1:27pmGrey Clock 4 min

Employees of accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman showed CEO Matt Snow that they could be productive at home during the pandemic. So, last fall, the company declared “hybrid” the new normal and made the office optional on most days.

This month the firm merged with a larger one whose staff shows up in person more often—and whose chief executive became CEO of the combined business, Forvis. Some of the blended company’s 5,400 total employees are now meeting new colleagues who could dictate future promotions and raises.

Sounds like a good time to get back to the desk.

“If you want to be a managing partner, you’re probably not going to do that working one day a week in the office, and I think people get that,” says Mr. Snow, who is now Forvis’s chairman. Employees still can work from home much of the time, he notes, but there may be trade-offs.

Hybrid workers, beware: There can be a gap—sometimes a wide one—between what’s required and what it really takes to succeed.

Office hard-liners like Tesla CEO Elon Musk have made clear that “a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week” is the only way to thrive, or even survive, at his company. The leaders of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase also don’t hide their disdain for remote work.

While telecommuting may be fine in certain roles, people in the upper ranks “cannot lead from behind a desk or in front of a screen,” JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon wrote in his annual shareholder letter this spring.

Yet other businesses are promising “hybrid equity,” insisting some employees can enjoy the conveniences of working from home without compromising their ambitions.

HubSpot, a Boston-based digital marketing firm, plans to track promotions in the coming years to ensure people who rarely visit the office aren’t disadvantaged, says Katie Burke, chief people officer. Citigroup requires three days of office work per week, and human resources head Sara Wechter says those who log only the minimum will have an “equitable opportunity to develop and advance their careers.”

It’s a dream for many workers, but it could be pure fantasy unless companies are vigilant, according to career coaches and researchers who say people in the office are more likely to get noticed and rewarded. A 2020 study of more than 400 tech workers by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Northeastern University found that while remote and non-remote workers won roughly the same number of promotions, the salaries of remote workers grew more slowly. At companies where remote work was less common, telecommuters won fewer promotions.

Sure, you can hit your performance targets from the kitchen table and wear out the “raise hand” button on Zoom. But a colleague who chats up the boss when the meeting is over and goes for a drink after hours may get ahead.

There’s a term for this.

Proximity bias (präk-ˈsi-mə-tē bī-əs) | noun

1. A tendency to favour people in close proximity to you

2. Human nature and the way things have worked in business since forever

It’s certainly possible to progress while working from home most or all of the time, especially in today’s tight labour market, and not everyone aspires to climb the corporate ladder to the top. Still, hybrid and remote arrangements could be vulnerable to management changes or an economic downturn—which many economists say is increasingly likely, by the way.

Businesses are hunting for leaders who can handle decentralized teams, says Bo Burch, founder of the executive search firm Human Capital Solutions in Wilmington, N.C.

Yet, “companies aren’t saying, ‘Bo, you need to make sure you present a panel of executives that have great stories to tell about how they overcome proximity bias,’” he says.

Office-goers sometimes enjoy special status even at companies that have embraced remote work. Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have allowed many employees to scatter—but warned of pay cuts for those who go remote and move to cheaper cities.

Polls show people in historically marginalized groups are among the most likely to prefer working from home, and businesses with hybrid teams should be careful not to exacerbate longstanding inequities, says Kathlyn Perez, a New Orleans labor lawyer who counsels companies on unconscious bias.

Then again, she notes remote workers aren’t members of a legally protected class in the way that women, minorities and people with disabilities are. Those who feel that infrequent office visits unfairly cost them promotions could have little recourse.

“Unfortunately, if you know that your employer values some face time, then you as an individual trying to improve your working situation and endear yourself to your boss may want to put some of that face time in,” she says.

Ms. Perez’s advice might seem obvious. Not to everyone, apparently.

Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson expected good turnouts, especially among young workers, when he extended a staff-wide invitation to join him for lunch every Tuesday at the company’s Midvale, Utah, headquarters.

Total attendance over eight months: 10 people.

“Most of the time, I eat my peanut butter sandwich alone,” he says. “When I was 25, if I had a chance to eat my sandwich with the CEO, I’d have been there.”

He says he doesn’t mind letting a majority of his 1,500 employees work from home most of the time, and Overstock recently hired executives in Austin and Cleveland to demonstrate its commitment to a hybrid workforce.

Nevertheless, when Mr. Johnson and I spent almost an hour chatting in a hotel lobby recently, I asked whether his lunchmates stand out as go-getters.

“A little bit,” he allowed.

The man likes to talk in person. If I worked at Overstock and wanted to get ahead, I’d find out whether Mr. Johnson prefers Skippy or Jif and bring a jar to the office next Tuesday.



MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Lifestyle
Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?
By Rachel Feintzeig 22/07/2024
Lifestyle
PROPERTY OF THE WEEK: 5 Hume Avenue, Wentworth Falls
By Kanebridge News 19/07/2024
Lifestyle
Blackstone’s Private-Equity Returns Trail the S&P 500
By Andrew Bary 19/07/2024
Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

Related Stories
Lifestyle
Why It’s Easier Than You Think to Score a Coveted Table When Visiting Paris for the Olympics
By SHIVANI VORA 23/06/2024
Money
Dating Apps Once Ran on Novelty. For Some Users, the Fun Is Over.
By SARA ASHLEY O’BRIEN 25/06/2024
Lifestyle
Sparkling wine flows as Australian winemaker takes out top international award
By Robyn Willis 11/07/2024
0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop