How well do we get to know virtual colleagues?

Eleanor Rigby…
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
                                                  (lyrics from The Beatles)

There are many tools that enable people to communicate/work together in a virtual environment. Personally I have used Skype, Whats App video, and many other high quality methods of video conferencing. And yes, these tools work, but how well do they work for everyone? How much depth is lost when we use gadgets to communicate?

It has been claimed that it is possible to get to know and trust ones’ colleagues very well, without any  face to face contact. Even the renouned psychiatrist Irvin Yalom now touts the virtue of psychotherapy via texting in his latest book Becoming Myself.

However for me, nothing but nothing replaces face to face contact.

There was an Israeli prime minister (Eshkol) who wisely warned against making “a tragedy into an ideology”. So whilst virtual communication is now the norm, it sure isn’t the “communication venue of choice” that brings out the best of me.

I have been told by people who have met me after years of virtual communication that they are surprised that I am a warm, compassionate person. Until we have met,  I often come across only as brash, bright and/or an aggravating contrarian. And yes, I do have a good sense of humour and write a satirical blog, but I am rather a “serious type” in conversation. And I had another surprise last year when a client with whom I had worked remotely told me that “I am surprised how much I like speaking with you face to face; sometimes I tried to avoid the calls we had scheduled .”

So while global configuration mandates constant virtual communication, I’m not done travelling yet, despite the delays, security checks, loss of baggage and horrendous scheduled  hours of take off and landing.





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12 thoughts on “How well do we get to know virtual colleagues?

  1. As a group process consultant turned facilitator of small group dialogues for people who inherited traumatic legacies, I can’t imagine doing this kind of work any other way – magic happens between people together not between the technologies.
    Hope to see you in June!

  2. A huge percentage of human communication is non-verbal. We’re probably not too many years away, but we don’t yet have either the tech or the ubiquitous bandwidth to include that fully in our virtual interactions.

  3. I’ve never met a few of my colleagues in person. We are quite deliberate to try to mitigate the shortcomings of working virtually, which is probably easier to do in a small org. I would never argue that face-to-face isn’t best, but virtual work is sometimes worth the trade-offs (there are of course some advantages to having a fully or partially remote workforce). People also say I’m warmer in person… 🙂

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