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I recently started working remote. My manager claims since I started working remote, my performance has suffered. However I've never missed a deadline and I've been commended by my manager's superiors. Can I argue this point to my manager's superiors or is going over their head a bad idea?

I should also mention, prior to working at this company, I was romantically involved with the sibling of my manager. I had moved and started working remotely to end that situation realizing that that was a bad situation but I really love this job, you could say it is my dream job.

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    What does your private life have to do with your job? Does the manager's sibling work at the same company too? – Nelson Oct 27 '16 at 1:51
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    Pretty sure I seen this in a movie, can't remember how it ended though. pretty sure you get the girl and a promotion and reconcile with your in laws, lots of drama first though. – Kilisi Oct 27 '16 at 7:03
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    Likely related question - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/11816/… – enderland Oct 27 '16 at 14:09
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    @JimJoeKelly basically what HLGEM wrote. – enderland Oct 27 '16 at 14:11
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    @Nelson It sounds like there's a definite possibility that this is about retaliation, not performance. – Loren Pechtel Oct 27 '16 at 22:51
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If your manager thinks your work has suffered, don't waste time denying it -- ask what you need to improve, and discuss whether/how you can improve it while continuing to work remotely.

But the answer may turn out to be that there has been a policy change and remote work is now discouraged. In which case you will need an exceptionally strong argument to continue doing it. I just went through one of those myself, and had to change assignments and resume working in the office most days.

Working remotely is a luxury and a privilege. You've got to be prepared to prove that you're worth the inconvenience this poses to management. That may mean working harder than most folks to stay in communication with everyone (and even then your career may suffer because you can't stay as tuned in to the unofficial channels as someone on site can). It may mean working harder, period, to ensure that you are noticed and valued. Do not take it for granted; make sure you are delivering what your manager needs in order to justify your special status.

Late edit: Working from home may save many hours of commute, but it also robs you of opportunities to exercise and can take years off your life if you aren't careful. It can also cost you a lot of opportunities for career advancement. Know what you are giving up for convenience.

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    Wouldn't asking which part has suffered be a better start? – Erik Oct 27 '16 at 6:40
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    @Erik et al: Isn't that covered in my very first paragraph? I did say "ask what you need to improve". – keshlam Oct 27 '16 at 14:53
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    I do think there's a big difference between "What can I do better?" and "What have I been doing worse?". The statement "Since you started remote working, you have been performing worse" is essentially a baseless accusation, and requires an explanation. – Erik Oct 27 '16 at 14:55
  • That last paragraph is beautifully worded. Next time someone asks why I get to work remote and they don't I'll forward them that. – The Muffin Man Oct 27 '16 at 17:33
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    @Erik I prefer keshlam's wording, it paints things in a positive constructive light instead of appearing defensive or combative. – user30031 Oct 27 '16 at 18:53
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It doesn't matter whether you think your performance has suffered, what matters is your manager's perception of your work.

What you need to do is get with him and make out a plan of what specific items need to improve. However, I will discuss some common problems of remote workers.

Having worked with a lot of remote workers through the years, the most likely problems are lack of communication or lack of availability when he wants to contact you.

When you work remote, you don't have the luxury of being unavailable for long stretches of time while you work on a problem. If he wants an answer from you in the office and he sees you really heads down, he may wait or he may interrupt if it is critical. When you are remote, he never sees you heads down working, so when he doesn't hear back from you immediately, he assumes you are slacking off.

This is especially true if your IM shows your status as away. If you are at your desk working heads down on something, you need to make sure your status is busy not away, for instance. If you want 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time to work on ABC, then you need to tell your boss that is what you are doing and that you will respond to any emails or IMs when you take a break. Then be diligent about doing so.

Sometimes team members in the office also get upset and complain to the boss if they are delayed because you are ignoring them. Communication to all members of a team on more than daily basis is critical to success when working remotely. In the office, someone can just stand in your cube until your respond to an urgent need. It is harder when the person is remote to get them to see your request.

When you work from home, you need to be scrupulous about making sure that others see you as working and be scrupulous about being available during the regular working hours. You need to respond to emails and IMs much more quickly than when you are in the office.

Seriously, if there is no contact with you for days, nobody knows what you are doing. We had to pull one person in from working remotely because the client complained that they never got any statuses from her. You don't want to give the impression that you have gone into a big black sinkhole when you work remotely.

It is as important to manage your reputation as it is do do the technical work. It is even more important when you are remote and no one can see you working. You need to attend meetings by phone or Global Meet or Skype or whatever your office uses. You need to contribute to meetings or they will forget your were there. You need to make sure to let people know your accomplishments. Right now as a remote worker, you are invisible. You have to become visible for people to perceive that you are performing well.

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Communicate and co-operate with your manager

What sounds familiar to me in this situation is a result of the following:

Office facilities are built for work, a home is not. At home you have not only the chance to be attracted to other matters, but some aspects of contracted work is not possible to be correctly checked (Did your contract change for working from home, or did it include this case? I believe it does not, and in that case, the company treats you close to same as you were working in the office).

"Sadly", quality of work/working is not only depends on deadlines. Plenty of communication involved for example. Also, since you will not really show up in the office, most probably communication will happen via mails and phone, this will get even more importance to be done right! You need to discover, what is the matter your manager tries to address.

Your manager started to challenge you performance. It is common for remote workers. However it is not common to have relationship to any member of your manager's family. My very personal advise is: Avoid private life to have anything to do with work. Seriously. Work is affected by private life. Even if denied by anyone. Private life suggests emotions, opinions, expectations, subjective conclusions on work if mixed. None of these are to be involved in professional work. Private life is not on common base, and the effect on your career or daily work will be unfair - even is positive or negative. You will feel bad if the negative part reaches you. Maybe indirectly this is the case even now.

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Can I argue this point to my manager's superiors

No!

Is going over their head a bad idea?

No!

Can I do something else and still get the outcome I'm looking for?

Yes :)

The only issue that you really have is that you should not 'argue' the point. You can go to the person above your manager, and ask them to consider the situation. It's best if you can book a time to talk to them, or if that's not really possible, send them an email.

Tell them that your manager has told you your performance is suffering because you are working remotely. Tell them that you do not think your performance is suffering. Don't make an issue about it. Because your managers bosses job is to support your manager in the decisions that he makes.

Tell the person your reasons for wishing to continue working remotely, such as; how working remotely is helping you avoid complications because of a workplace relationship etc. Hopefully have some other reasons available too.

And at the end of whatever communication, ask the manager if he would mind being involved with the decision making in relation to this single situation, (hopefully the manager will read between the lines when you say you were/are in a relationship with your managers sibling)

Hopefully they will just agree to keep tabs on the situation, and prevent any 'unfairness' from going unnoticed.

That's about as far as you want to take anything with your managers boss, unless your manager starts behaving in a manner that in unprofessional. If there is unprofessional behavior go to HR.

Other things you should think about: Asking your manager to help you improve your remote working performance, ask where he feels that your performance had dropped, and do things to improve this.

It can be psychosomatic, he does not 'see' you working, so he needs regular updates from you about the work you are doing.

Basically getting your managers 'impression' of why he things your performance is down, can help you 'appear' more productive to him by doing little things like emailing to update. Even though your performance had not changed, his perception of your performance will change.

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    Following this advice would destroy the relationship with the manager. If OP wants to maintain the remote work arrangement, they need to improve their relationship with their manager. – Kent A. Oct 27 '16 at 12:04
  • @KentA. I disagree, this is trying to maintain a healthy workplace relationship with your manager, raising your concerns before they become problems. Asking for the involvement of impartial members of your working tree. maybe read it again and think about the situation a little more. All you would be asking is that the situation be known to the next appropriate person, so as to keep things running smoothly. And as the last few lines, trying to meet the expectations of your manager. Everything there is above board, and done in a non-threatening way. Maybe you can clarify your issue? – TolMera Oct 27 '16 at 12:44
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    Work with manager first. Escalate only if that hits a wall. The first question anyone else is going to ask is "have you discussed this in detail with your manager, and what did he/she say?" – keshlam Oct 27 '16 at 14:56
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    @TolMera Perhaps we are approaching this from a different cultural background. In the USA, going to your manager's boss to resolve an issue with your manager is acceptable only after trying to resolve the concern directly with your manager. It would not be perceived as bringing in an impartial third party. Many remote work arrangements rely on a good working relationship with your immediate manager, and doing and end-run around him/her to get what you want harms that relationship. – Kent A. Oct 27 '16 at 19:54
  • @KentA That's a reasonable assumption, having worked internationally, predominantly in European environments, with persons from all nations that have to work together (cultural differences field day), I have found this a reasonable approach (obviously so long as you are not trying undermine your manager, or undermine organisational structure), and one that prevents small problems becoming big problems, because issues are exposed very early in their life cycle and before mistakes are made. In this case I think your first comment is overly harsh and undeserved, would appreciate it being amended. – TolMera Oct 27 '16 at 21:49

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