Still thinking about the continued rise of email/text vs. live personal interaction. My point in these blogs isn’t to demonize the technology because I am a huge proponent. I have personally been involved in the technology industry for over 20 years. The efficiencies and speed they have added to business are undeniable, but they have their place. They are not a replacement for good (sometimes uncomfortable) human interaction. And there are people that use email/text to avoid engaging with people live. While this condition is likely the primary driver for the folks that send those emotionally charged emails I wrote about previously, it’s also awful tempting to use email and text to replace communication with someone who talks endlessly, has a negative attitude or is continuously critical. Even worse, with Caller ID we can “ignore” those that actually pick-up the phone to make contact with US. We can use our digital tools to respond rather than calling them back.
I must admit that I am no prince and have, on occasion, used email or text for just these reasons. I always feel guilty and force myself to reach out to the individual to handle the situation more appropriately. It blows me away when I get an email from someone down the hall or in the next office that isn’t a doc exchange or mtg request (appropriate uses of email). They can’t come see me? Usually, I just get up and go to their office. Hopefully, I am not someone they are trying to avoid!!
I think it is fair to say that every organization needs to communicate effectively in order to be successful. Email (and social media for that matter) has a place in a company’s communication fabric but can’t be a dominant method. There are a number of companies that are addressing the issue of out of hand email and doing something about it. This article from the WSJ, Email Backlash Builds, shares the efforts of a couple companies to have their employees better engage with their co-workers by walking away from email (at least for a little while) and picking up the phone or walking down the hall.
How is the quality of communication in your business? Personally, where do you fit? Are you an avoider? Are people avoiding you?
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.