Pick Up The Phone Already! When Email & Texting Backfires

I read an article in the Chicago Tribune this AM about how digital communication (texting) is dominating voice communication. With two teenage girls, this revelation wasn’t too surprising and it got me thinking about how we communicate in the business world. While I have worked most of my career in technology-oriented businesses and love the benefits innovations in tech provide, there are some things about this overwhelming move to digital communication that bug me.

The first offenders are the people who use email and texting for “emotionally charged” communication. If the communication is personal in nature (ie a disagreement, disappointment, anger, performance issues, etc), an email message or text is just wrong. If you can’t meet with the individual in-person, use video chat or a phone call to share your feelings. There have been too many times in my career when I have received an email and can’t fathom why the author didn’t pick up the phone or come to my office. Well, I guess I can fathom it. Most of us don’t enjoy confrontation or uncomfortable discussions and believe that an email is an easier way to go. Not so much. In the end, it almost always comes down to a confrontation anyway.

Take this recent example, How Not To Handle A Resignation Gracefully from TechCrunch that I tweeted yesterday AM. An employee resigns via email and a boss responds negatively, also by email. Let the paper trail begin. While it is appropriate to put a resignation in writing, the right approach is to schedule a discussion with the boss at the time of delivering notice. It’s not too hard to believe that the boss, Jason Calacanis of Mahalo, responded to unprofessionalism with even more unprofessionalism. It’s not pretty. But here’s the reality, when sending emotional emails and texts, you can almost guarantee these notes will be forwarded to others, extending the damage – an outcome that is practically obsolete when you pick up the phone or step into someone’s office instead. In this case, it’s all over the web.

As an update to the drama and an explanation, if not an apology for his actions, Calacanis said in a blog this morning, “no one is perfect” and sometimes “I say something brutally honest without regard to my reputation or the other person’s feelings. There’s no reason to make the kid feel bad on the way out when I could have just said ‘Good luck, we will miss you greatly!’” He also included a great list of pointers on “How to Resign” that everyone thinking about texting their boss about a new job offer should definitely read closely.

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