The San Francisco team thinks their Chicago colleagues check out early every day and doless work. The Chicago employees rail that California staffget all the recognition andpromotions.Both groups are part of the same department, but resentment between them sizzles.This workplace tale of two cities is super common, said Bill Berman, Ph.D., founder ofBerman Leadership Development LLC in New York City. Each group thinks the other doeslessand is less valuable but more valued. The result is teamed lacking a shared purpose andnot trusting colleagues.Distance, restructuring and time differences can make it hard for managers to create asense of community. When you have a conversation for two minutes after a meeting, thepeople on theremote call are out of the loop. That little bit of social interaction can make a difference inhow people feel about each other, Berman said. And the number of employees who don’twork face to face is soaring. Worksites are becoming more dispersed, with satellite officesaround the world. The financial and human resource benefits are obvious. Yet the toll ofpeople feeling marginalized by their geography shouldn’t be minimized, said DarleenDeRosa, Ph.D., a leadership consultant with Spencer Stuart in Stamford, Conn. Theseemployees feel excluded, invisible and mistreated by the larger group, so they seek thesafety of like-minded people. The negative venting, gossip, rumors, and backstabbing thatcan go on in these cliques creates a toxic environment for the entire team.DeRosa prefers the term sub-team to cliques. The mistake companies make is creating

remote worksites and assuming the same management dynamics apply for them as atcompanyheadquarters, she observes. Leaders need formal training to build trust and relationshipswith people working remotely.It requires extra measures and skills to manage conflict from a distance. Conflicts in virtualsettings are harder to detect and can fester longer, DeRosa said. When people workingfrom afar can’t read body language, they are more likely to perceive slights and makeoffhand remarks personally, for example. Signs of a potential problem include diminishedproductivity, absences at meetings, people not helping one another, turnover andmicromanagement of an offsite group. Sometimes a leader’s seeming favoritism for a teamon location is unintentional. Remote teams may not get as much attention because they aresimply out of sight, out mind, Berman said.The inadvertent results may be that employees working at a different site than the managerdon’t get the same development conversations or plum assignments. Or it may just bemore convenient for managers to rely on people down the hall. If managers aren’tintentional and don’t gently force interactions between groups, workers will remain in theirsub-teams. Managers have to work extra hard to pay attention to people they can’t see,Berman said. Leaders need to observe who hangs out with whom. Is everyone’s voice beingheard?

Since HR may be the first to hear rumblings of fragmentation, it may have to take the leadand gather data to show the manager how the resentment is affecting performance. HR cansupportinclusive behavior by adding team building to its performance metrics. Communicationstechnology is key in resolving schisms, Berman said. HR should coach managers who arenot comfortable with Slack, Yammer, Zoom or project management software. Videotechnology can create a virtual watercooler for people at different locations, DeRosa said.She suggests digital bonfires where small groups meet in a virtual environment. Managersshould visit all sites at least twice a year, Berman said. Ask if there is something you can doto help them feel more connected. Some managers select an informal leader at each siteto bridge gaps between visits. Periodic visits are less about exerting control and more aboutpaying attention said Guy L.Smith, a reputation and crisis management consultant in Greenwich, Conn. Show up andlisten. Understand their challenges. Headquarters may make decisions without their input,so help people on the front lines understand why certain changes were made—not Here’s aproduct; sell it.


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