- Firstly, he must talk to the team member who was reportedly in tears and provide them with every opportunity to give their account of what happened. If the manager or team member aren’t able to hold a physical meeting quickly, a confidential place and time must be arranged and either a telephone or Skype call set up.
- If inappropriate behaviour is found to have taken place, it must be dealt with in accordance with company policy. It’s important for the manager to show zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour and acting firmly and swiftly is key, even if the allegations end up proving to be unfounded.
- Visit the team at the earliest possible opportunity. Hold a team meeting, but also give individual members the opportunity to discuss their views and concerns in a confidential setting. Find out if they believe that a ‘manager-less’ office will work and encourage them to air all of the relevant issues.
- Set up regular individual performance reviews, conducted on a face-to-face basis if possible and using Skype or similar alternative only if unavoidable. Ensure that these arrangements are never cancelled unless something exceptionally important arises.
- Invite the team to elect one or two staff representatives who will be responsible for holding regular team meetings on-site and for reporting back any issues or matters that require attention. Also get them to hold regular meetings so that everyone feels involved and always respond quickly and emphatically when issues or actions from these meetings are reported back.
- Establish suitable communication channels, for example, undertake weekly conference or Skype-based calls and/or webinars and use Sharepoint to share information in addition to undertaking physical visits. Be clear about expected standards and ensure that everyone understands the reporting process if those standards aren’t met. Such standards can cover financial performance, behaviour, working practices and working within company guidelines and policies.
- Introduce a system to collect customer feedback. Ensure that every customer has an opportunity to report back any dissatisfaction (or indeed praise) to the main office. Have clear notices to this effect in public areas and on literature.
- Try to create a no-blame culture where employees are encouraged to view their mistakes as learning opportunities. Not to do so will mean that they fail to report anything back for fear of recrimination.
- Complete a risk assessment on the potential ramifications of a ‘manager-less’ office. Develop appropriate counter-measures and, where appropriate, compare the risks and potential costs associated with managing the office remotely with the cost of promoting an existing team member or re-hiring a junior manager. If the risk of being ‘manager-less’ is too great, take your business case to appropriate budget holders.