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Jim’s firing took place in a cramped, gray conference room with squeaky chairs and the smell of stale doughnuts. He’d been in that room before—though not much lately, he realized. In retrospect, that was as good a sign as any that his career with his company was careening toward an unhappy ending.

He’d been hired to manage a massive corporate rebrand two years before. The assignment pinched him between rank-and-file middle managers on one side and senior execs on the other. But it came with a lot of power and some important perks, one particularly sweet benefit being that Jim could work from home an awful lot.

Remote work is getting a bad rap lately. IBM recently earned heckles for instructing thousands of employees to march back into the office or else find new jobs. But much of the time, remote work policies take the fall when other issues are to blame. One of them is simply the way people tend to react when they’re trying to change entire teams, departments, or companies—in other words, the problem is often behavioral, not technological or organizational.

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