Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.
Help! How Do I Navigate Relationships in a Remote Setting?
Dear Content Therapist: I am new to B2B content marketing, and I’m having trouble assimilating to my current role. I’m a veteran front-line worker and worked in a hospital throughout the pandemic. After many years in the health industry, including the height of the pandemic, I needed a change and decided to look into content marketing. I’ve always been interested in the field, so after some courses and an internship, I landed a job as a content marketing associate. I was ecstatic to land this position and start working remotely, but I’m way out of my element. I’m used to talking to people in person and the office politics of the health industry. But now, I’m having trouble adapting to this new setting and developing connections with my co-workers. How can I cultivate interpersonal relationships with my co-workers without forcing them? — FRONT-LINER TURNED MARKETER.
Paul Chaney: Remote work isn’t for everyone, and building interpersonal relationships with fellow employees in a remote environment can be challenging. But it’s a challenge that can also be overcome.
Part of it depends on your personality. If you have an introversion preference (introvert), you’re typically fine working alone with little interaction. You may even prefer it; an email or text will suffice. That’s not to say you wouldn’t benefit from more interpersonal interaction, just that it’s not as much of a priority. On the other hand, if you have an extroversion preference (extrovert), you genuinely need personal interaction. You thrive on it.
I’m not going to speculate about which category you fit into, but I’m betting you’re not the only person in the company who feels this way. There’s hope that, as you reach out, others will respond to your overtures favorably.
Here are some suggestions that can help.
Engage via chat
Does your workplace use a chat program like Slack or Microsoft Teams? If so, become actively engaged in conversation when possible. Is it the same as face to face? Certainly not, but once you acclimate to a remote environment, you’ll find it can be a stimulating form of social interaction. Think of it as a “virtual” water cooler.
Turn on your camera
It’s likely you participate in meetings via Zoom, Teams or Google Meet. If so, turn on your camera, and let everyone see your face. Something else to consider is to let people see your home office space instead of using a virtual background. It’s another way for them to get to know you.
Take the first step
Once you find others who, like you, desire closer connection, reach out to see if there are areas of shared interest and engage with them from time to time.
Celebrate your co-workers’ accomplishments
If a co-worker gets promoted, has a work anniversary, a birthday or some other special event, celebrate it with a chat message, email or even a phone call. This creates a degree of reciprocity; some may return the gesture in kind.
Connect on social networks
Connect with co-workers on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. Then, like, comment on and share their posts. Those are goodwill gestures that show your appreciation for their content. Eventually, you may feel comfortable connecting via Facebook, but I wouldn’t start there due to the personal nature of the platform.
It will take time to form interpersonal relationships remotely. Be patient and try a few of these suggestions. I’m sure that as people get to know you, they will come to cherish the friendship and camaraderie.
I’ve Become the “Yes” Person, and I’m Tired!
Dear Content Therapist: I work for a smaller B2B content marketing agency. I’ve been with the company for almost two years, and during that time, the company has had its ups and downs. However, the agency has been doing well for the last year and has plenty of new clients. With new clients comes more work, and I believe in what the company is doing, so I’m always there to help where I can — but that’s where my problems begin. I do my job and do it well. I’ve taken on tasks that weren’t in my original title, but when you are on a small team, you wear many hats. My working hours are long, and my to-do lists are even longer. I went to my boss, the CEO, and told her I needed help. She told me that while we were doing well, there weren’t the resources to onboard another person. She did let me know to keep up the excellent work. I felt defeated and, frankly, frustrated. I do what I can to help drive the mission, but I’m only one person and need help. Can I address this concern to my boss and get the necessary change? Or should I start updating my resume? — TURNING MY “YES” INTO A “NO”
Paul Chaney: Something similar happened to me years ago when I was marketing director at a digital marketing agency.
One day, the CEO walked into my office and told me that my salary was the marketing budget. There would be no help from freelance writers, graphic designers or other agencies specializing in whatever we needed at the time. I was it, and my creativity in finding ways to promote the agency at no cost was all I had to work with.
That’s different from your precise circumstances, but it’s familiar enough that I can empathize. Let’s examine your situation in greater detail.
You say you work long hours and feel responsible for “driving” the agency’s mission. That tells me you are sincere and have the company’s best interests at heart. But you must also look out for your own self-interest — what’s best for you.
While I would like to think the CEO is genuinely empathetic, their primary responsibility is to safeguard the company’s bottom line. And let’s be frank: You’re probably not the only person asking for help.
Practically speaking, you’re left to do the same thing I did: the best you can. And if it gets to be too much, you probably will reach a point of updating your resume and looking for another job. Before that happens, however, why not talk to the CEO one more time?
Let me give you one other piece of advice that has bearing on your plight: Always complain up.
That concept comes from a scene in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” where Tom Hanks’ character says to a lower-ranking soldier, “I don’t gripe to you, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up.”
That means you should never take your complaint to a fellow employee. That’s sure to backfire. But don’t let your frustration lead to a defeatist attitude, either. That’s not good for you or the company. Schedule an appointment, and talk to your CEO. Only then will you know if you can turn your “yes” to “no.”
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.