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5 Thoughts on How to Treat Your Productivity Paranoia

By Perry Holley | November 16, 2022
5 Thoughts on How to Treat Your Productivity Paranoia

Is your team as productive as you would like them to be? 

Are the people on your team more productive because of your presence? What if you are not present? Does their level of productivity remain the same or better?

Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and found that 87% of employees report being productive at work. Yet only 12% of leaders expressed confidence in the level of productivity because so many people are still working remotely. These leaders say they would have more confidence if the team were in the office.

The term created for this remote productivity concern is “productivity paranoia.” Microsoft’s report describes productivity paranoia as “where leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, the number of meetings and other activity metrics have increased.”

The Prescription to Treat Your Productivity Paranoia


Let’s start with culture. We teach that your culture is how people think, act, and interact around a set of core values that the organization has determined are what they want to be known for. If you are concerned about how people work or serve clients, you should have a core value that is well-defined and has intentional behaviors that would be evident within your team. When core values are clearly defined, with expected behaviors, it doesn’t matter where someone works.


Second, look at trust within your team. If you are paranoid about whether your teammates are actually working, is there a trust issue that needs to be addressed?

Some reports about how leaders handle the hybrid work environment since returning from the pandemic have mentioned surveillance tactics like tracking mouse movement or showing green on Slack or email. Nothing communicates a lack of trust like tracking my mouse moving.

Stephen M.R. Covey teaches in The Speed of Trust that trust is a combination of character and competence. Is there a breakdown in one of these areas with your team that you need to address?


The third area you should look at is how you handle performance management. The pandemic changed almost every aspect of how we do work. In many cases, business results improved, causing workers to develop bad habits during good times. If you evaluate employee effectiveness using the lagging indicator of a scoreboard at the end of the month or quarter, you are setting yourself up for possible disappointment. In addition to the scoreboard, develop some leading indicators that can be monitored daily or weekly to reveal progress toward the end goal.

When you establish these leading indicators, it doesn’t matter where people are doing their work. Whether in the office, at home, or in a coffee shop, they are responsible for hitting those leading indicators. And this brings us to the fourth thought for avoiding productivity paranoia: accountability.


Having leading indicators of daily and weekly productivity opens the door for regular check-ins with people and holding each other accountable for the commitments each person is responsible for completing. The key is not to look at accountability as who to blame when things don’t get done, but as ownership — ensuring things will get done. When the people on your team know they own the outcome and the weekly review of progress toward that outcome, productivity will happen.


The final thought to consider is equity instead of equality regarding where people work. Not everyone needs the same things. Equal treatment would be to require everyone to be in the office. Equitable treatment would consider the needs of every individual and where they are best suited to work. Some may need the structure of being in the office; others may need the freedom of working from home. Some may have job requirements where they need to be in the office, while others may not. You want to value people equally and treat people equitably.

There is no need to be paranoid about your team’s productivity when you lead from the front and design a culture and metrics that allow people to do their best work no matter where they are sitting.

About Perry Holley

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership, as well as a published author. As co-host of the Maxwell Leadership Executive Leadership Podcast, he has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.

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