5 Whys is a blog about technical leadership in the software world.

Distributed Team Evasion Tactic - Away or Offline

Evasion tactics make sure you as a manager don't have to confront employees, or even engage with them. Engaging with your team is part of your job as a manager. It's *supposed* to be difficult. That's why you get paid more!

Today's tactic is much more likely to happen on a distributed team.

Keep status on Skype as forced "away" or "offline"

How to realize you are doing it: When you talk to people on Skype, your status remains away or offline even while chatting.


"Away" managers won't commit to actually talking to anyone on the team (if it's a remote team), unless they choose to do it. it's  a way to be unavailable to input, only to output.

Possible reasons:

As a team leader you may not feel that you are working as hard as you can, or that you are not available as much as you want to be for your team, and you are using 'away' statues to mask the actual times when you are actually away.

How it makes your team feel:

Your team feel as if you're either always watching, or alternatively never there. at some point they will stop caring, and just expect the random "act of god" in which you descend from the Skype heavens to instill your wisdom, but only when you magically choose to appear.

Signs that your team is bothered by it:

might include that people remark offhanded that 'you always seem to be away' or 'oh i thought you were away'. People will usually be afraid to tell you that they dislike this behavior from you.

Problems it can cause:

The team might start exhibiting the same behavior - always being away while still talking to you, so you start get the feeling that they are not there as well. Another possibility is that the team will trust you less to "be there" for them when they need you.

Over time you may start to 'reach' for people in odd hours in the hopes that they, much like you, will still be there when you need them, because you won't know if they are just playing hide and seek. this can lead to people feeling like you're "popping out of the woodwork" instead of working in times when everyone else is.


Instill *known* working hours with the team, in which people are online. Specifically ask for this behavior to not happen, and be the first to stop it. make an example out of your self.

One more thing:

As a more manners-challenged friend of mine said "If you do that you're an asshole and I don't want to work for you".

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