We hear a lot of complaining from people who work remotely that their boss doesn’t pay them enough attention, or that it’s hard to get on their calendar, or that they don’t get enough one-on-one time with their manager. Is it because the boss likes the other team members better? Do they just hate you and are glad you’re not in the office bothering them? Or maybe you suffer the curse of high expectations.

At first glance, the curse of high expectations doesn’t sound like a curse at all. The boss has such faith in your understanding of the job at hand, and your ability to get it done, that they feel you don’t need “hand-holding” or “micromanagement” and they can spend their time dealing with the people who need their help. How can that be a curse?

The problem is that one person’s “being left alone to get their work done,” becomes another person’s “being ignored.”  When there isn’t regular communication, we have a need to fill in gaps in our knowledge with assumptions that may or may not be accurate. For example, the last couple of times your boss has spoken to you, there’s been an issue about the quality of your work. You begin to believe that “she never talks to me unless I’ve screwed up.”  Maybe you hear about someone getting a plum work assignment from another team member, and you begin to think you’re not being kept in the loop, or considered for tasks that might lead to promotion or other rewards.

So why do leaders ignore top performers?

They’re too busy dealing with “problem children.”

Most managers will admit they spend too much time trying to coach up or correct their worst performing employees. This is often the case, but your top performers (those you have such high expectations of) need support, recognition and human contact as well. When you work remotely, it’s too easy to become “out of sight, out of mind.”

They don’t want to be a nuisance or interrupt.

It’s nice that your manager has such faith in your work that they want to leave you alone to get it done. The problem is that sometimes that feels an awful lot like being ignored and leaving you to flounder on your own. Regular, consistent communication helps eliminate the need for sudden communication that can interrupt your normal workflow. If you have time built in on Tuesday afternoon for a check-in call, they aren’t interrupting, they’re honoring a time commitment.

They assume you’re getting the information you need from other team members—or magically getting it out of the ozone.

Odds are, you’re not your manager’s only direct report. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult for him to remember what he’s told to whom and when. The problem is that an innocent slip of the memory can feel an awful lot like intentionally leaving you out of the loop.

They tend to talk to you as much as they need to, not as much as you need.

People tend to act according to their own preferences, and project those onto others. So, if your manager is a bit of an introvert, and doesn’t care for small-talk, odds are she’s going to reach out on an as-needed basis (as SHE needs, as it turns out) and expect you to do the same. “If they need me, they know where to find me,” is a pretty common statement from managers who act like this. If you’re a person who needs shorter, more regular contact, you may feel like the other person isn’t making an effort to stay in touch, and is ignoring you.

The curse of high expectations has roots in one simple fact: we never know what another person is thinking, we can only respond to their behavior. If they act like they’d rather do anything than speak to you, that’s what you’re going to believe. The fact that they have high expectations for you, and you’re meeting those lofty goals so they can put their efforts elsewhere, can’t replace the fact that the two of you haven’t spoken in nearly a week and you’re quietly freaking out.

As a leader, be aware of the frequency and way you communicate with your team members. If you’re an individual team member, be proactive about talking to your manager about how often you want to communicate, and what you need from them to feel comfortable and successful.

After all, you have expectations of your boss, too. They just may not be as high, and that’s a shame.

If you’d like to improve the way you give feedback to your remote teams, we have just the tool that can help. This on-demand course, Effective Remote Coaching & Feedback, can help you overcome some of the pitfalls prevalent among remote teams that can cause top performers to feel ignored.




Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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