Beginning in the spring of 2020, many managers and supervisors discovered that they had moved into a very different line of work: managing remote employees. This was, as nearly everyone reading this will be well aware, a complete and near-instantaneous shift into a workflow that was being re-done on a day-to-day basis. There were no courses or webinars to prepare the newly-designated remote managers, and there was little or no help for the technical or administrative staff who suddenly had new responsibilities dropped on their desks or workbenches. Recent studies report that many employees, especially in small companies, say they have experienced no growth in skills since 2020. These conditions have not necessarily changed in 2022, and this article suggests some actions to consider.

Adapting to the “New Normal”

The norm for these transitions was that they were invisible. In many cases workers and frontline supervisors alike found that the new duties came without title, position description, or even salary increases.

From April through July 2020, MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed 396 managers, from first line supervisors to board members, to identify the effects and lessons learned during the initial transition. In findings reported in May 2021, managers said that these “invisible” transitions were harder to complete than traditional formal job changes. Among the obstacles:

  • Invisible transitions required more energy, resources, and self-reflection than formal transitions;
  • Transition was hampered by lack of authority, difficulty in communication, and lack of opportunities for self-improvement;
  • Women supervisors lacked external support from the company and also lacked informal influence.

Each of these obstacles can and should be addressed by management actions during times of transition to remote teams.

Development through self-reflection

One concept that may help individual employees and managers during transition is the idea of self-monitoring behavior around the concept of “grit” developed by psychologist Angela Duckworth. Grit, as described by Duckworth, is the combination of passion and perseverance toward long-term goals.

Several years ago Duckworth began describing how to use the concept of grit as a means of giving employees and managers a way to appreciate the critical qualities of successful people, as accessed through an instrument known as the “Grit Scale.” This is not an aptitude test or other measure that you or employees could use to direct their self-reflection and improvement. Instead, employees and managers read the Grit Scale questions and reflect on how they do or don’t comply with them. As a result, the employees simply use the scale to generate their own “Grit Score” to see how “gritty” they are relative to before. The questions and the self-reflection do not make employees “grittier” but they can use them as a means of self-development and improvement. Grit is not only useful for employees who are learning to accomplish difficult goals during a time of transition, but also for managers who must identify and solve their own challenges as they learn to lead employees through uncharted territory. Watch the interview in the resources section below to get started.


Duckworth, Angela Lee. (2013) Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Interview: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance | Angela Duckworth | Talks at Google (2016)

Marquardt, Inge et al. “How to Manage 'Invisible Transitions' in Leadership”. MIT Sloan Management Review, May 6, 2021.