Coworker’s Move to Hawaii Frustrates Cooperation

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about communication across time zones:

My coworker moved voluntarily to Hawaii which our leadership approved. Hawaii is in a time zone 6 hours behind where I live on the east coast of the United States. Her relocation was not related to a spouse having a job change but simply to escape the cold weather. We work on a very demanding project with two team–the business team based on the east coast and the IT development team from India. Because India is 10 hours ahead of eastern standard time, many of our meetings begin at 7 AM. My Hawaiian coworker doesn’t join these calls. She doesn’t have a very good understanding of the project because she doesn’t collaborate with the entire team. 

Additionally, the team is relaying messages between her and India daily which is inefficient and ineffective. Whenever she has an idea and we give her constructive feedback based on our interactions with the IT developers, she gets defensive. Lastly, she expects me to flex my schedule to accommodate her working hours. It is getting to be too much. How do I approach talking to her about how she can’t be expecting me to constantly accommodate her schedule and how her limited interactions with the India team is affecting the project’s performance? Signed–Timed Out

Dear Timed Out: Working globally demands special collaborative communication. I shared your question with Dr. Mark Mindell, Human Resource Manager with years of experience with major multinational corporations. His response speaks to your situation: 
“In a way, my wife has the same problem.  She works and is headquartered in SoCal but the new Corp Headquarters is in Cambridge England (6 hours difference).  She has to fly to England at least once/month for a week and is now having to fly to India about once/month because one of the key teams that reports to her is located in India.  She often has to take calls extremely early in the morning and late at night in addition to the travel. But the Company’s expectation, and understandably so, is that she will do what is needed to perform her job well – like any employee.  And she is an SVP but still must adapt.

“That is a long way of saying that this manager has every right to expect the employee who relocated for warmer weather will do whatever is necessary to perform.  Her location is irrelevant and should not be considered a factor in her performance unless their was some type of agreement before the move was made (presumably that is not the case).  I would advise the manager that his expectations need not change because his employee moved for warmer weather and the employee should expect that she has to perform no differently, or better, if she wants to remain in her position.

“I believe this is pretty clear cut and, assuming the Manager’s perception is accurate, is unlikely to last much longer.”

Does Mark Mindell’s perspective provide the kind of understanding that enables you to frankly confront your coworker about needing her adjustment to time differences? Either she needs to be available and cooperative or else. You should not have to apologize to speak with her firmly about this. Working together with hands, head, or heart takes and makes big WEGOS. The workplace organization cannot function well without frequent and trusting communicators. Please share with us what you choose to do. –William Gorden