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Remote culture and the role of authentic communication: Insights from Andrew Brodsky’s study6 min read

August 15, 2023 4 min read


Remote culture and the role of authentic communication: Insights from Andrew Brodsky’s study6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutesReading Time: 4 minutes

In the contemporary age, where remote work and hybrid models have become a staple, establishing and nurturing a strong remote culture is more important than ever. However, not all companies are successful in creating a quality remote-first culture. To truly understand this challenge, we turn to a recent study by Andrew Brodsky, a prominent scholar in the area of workplace virtual communication. The study investigates how different communication methods impact perceptions of emotional authenticity, especially in a virtual work context.

About Andrew Brodsky

Andrew Brodsky is an assistant professor of management at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business. He possesses a deep interest in the intersection of individual work-based technology usage and workplace communication challenges, particularly in workplace virtual communication. Prof. Brodsky has a rich history of conducting global research, consultation, and training in various organizations. His research has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Harvard Business Review. Andrew Brodsky has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in economics from The Wharton School. Furthermore, he has been recognized as one of the Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors by Poets&Quants this summer.

Authentic Communication in a Virtual World

Brodsky’s research, as covered in the HBR, addresses the nuanced nature of authenticity in virtual communication. Authenticity is undoubtedly a prized attribute in the business world. Studies have confirmed the critical role of authenticity in determining workplace outcomes, from junior roles to leadership positions. Yet, in a dynamic world, especially in leadership roles, what does it truly mean to be authentic?

Hermina Ibarra, the professor of organizational behavior at London Business School and the author of “Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader”, and “Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career”, described authenticity as being true to oneself, representing oneself in genuine ways, and acting in accordance with one’s beliefs and values. So “that’s not being fake; it’s how we figure out what’s right for the challenges and circumstances we face.”

However, achieving consistent authenticity, especially in communication, can be challenging. Being truly authentic all the time can sometimes clash with the demands or sensitivities of the workplace. Brodsky’s exploration helps in understanding these challenges and provides a framework for leaders and employees alike to navigate the intricate dynamics of authentic communication, especially in a hybrid work setting.

His research identified several challenges that can cause emotional mismatches, leading to perceptions of inauthenticity:
Situational conflicts: Situations might demand emotions that clash with what an individual is genuinely feeling, such as facing increased tasks due to a colleague’s poor performance or handling a difficult customer.
Spillover effects: The phenomenon where emotions from a previous interaction persist and influence subsequent situations. These lingering emotions may not be relevant to the new context, leading to potentially inappropriate emotional responses.
Communication channel difficulties: The nuances of emotions can be lost in virtual interactions. Thus, awareness and adjustment of feelings are essential, albeit complex.

Choose the Right Communication Tool

Addressing these challenges, Brodsky offers insights on selecting the right mode of communication to maintain and enhance perceived authenticity. Different communication mediums have opposing effects. He concludes:
• When communicating genuinely, richer mediums like face-to-face or video calls are most effective – For authentic emotions, richer media is optimal.
• When needing to mask genuine emotions, less rich mediums like phone or audio calls can be the sweet spot, striking the right balance between emotion conveyance and authenticity perception.
• If using email, ensuring the recipient understands the choice was not deliberate can help maintain the email’s perceived authenticity – Can help in hiding true emotions and prevent inadvertent emotional “leakage.”

Furthermore, in the context of managing remote teams, Brodsky suggests allowing employees to keep their webcams off to combat Zoom fatigue and focus on tasks rather than controlling displayed emotions. Interestingly, though, according to an executive survey by Vyopta last year, over 90% of executives believe that employees who go off-camera or on mute don’t have a long future with their companies. It’s not surprising that many organizations enforce mandatory cameras-on policies, defying the overwhelming scientific consensus that such policies do not contribute to productivity.


Not all companies possess the capacity or resources to effectively cultivate a high-quality remote-first culture. While the concept sounds appealing, its successful implementation requires strategic planning, technological infrastructure, and a deep understanding of employee needs, which may be beyond the reach of some organizations.

Real world examples include a recent initiative by Zoom, the prominent video-conferencing platform, has mandated its employees who live within 50 miles (80km) of its offices to come in at least two days a week, adopting a hybrid work model. This decision contrasts with the findings of Zoom’s 2022 survey where 69% of workers emphasized the importance of choosing their work location, with 45% suggesting they might switch jobs if unable to work from their preferred location. This policy shift comes after Zoom’s revenue declined with many businesses reverting to physical offices post-pandemic, reducing dependency on video calls. Moreover, in an attempt to revamp its business model, Zoom integrated AI-powered features into its tool Zoom IQ. A recent change in their Terms of Service allows the use of customer content to train their AI, a move that might raise privacy concerns and potentially diminish user trust, given the platform’s wide use for private and sensitive meetings.

The trend towards remote work remains undeniable, driven by people’s desire for greater autonomy and a deeper sense of trust between employer and employee. The challenge lies in something other than the availability of technology. To make remote work truly effective, organizations must provide the right tools and create an environment that values, empowers, and connects employees, regardless of location. This winter, we introduced the book “Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus” by Ali Greene and Tamara Sanderson, which offers a deep dive into the evolving landscape of the modern workplace. Drawing on their vast experience and insights from industry experts, the authors present a book that provides solutions to challenges in remote work, from effective communication to establishing a robust team culture. The authors, Ali and Tam, are writers and educators in the remote work realm. They offer talks to inspire teams with actionable ideas, a training series to guide on essential remote working skills and provide advice tailored to specific organizational needs, whether it’s through engagement surveys or intimate coaching circles.


As remote work environments evolve, understanding and leveraging authentic communication is pivotal. Brodsky’s research sheds light on the dynamics of virtual communication and the factors that influence perceptions of authenticity. As companies grapple with the challenges of establishing a remote-first or at least remote-friendly culture, insights like these can pave the way for more effective and genuine interactions, nurturing trust, collaboration, and overall organizational health.