xiv) Emails

Assuming technology (eg Email, telecommunications such as video conferences, computer systems, etc) and technical skills are more important than human contact in communications and relationships between people. Change is about people! Remember: high-tech needs to be combined with high-touch! Personal contact is about relationship building and increasing trust with personal contact. On the other hand, remember:

"...people have been blaming communications technology for ruining their lives ever since the mid-19th century, when the telegram was introduced......blaming technologies for the social consequence is shooting the messenger..."

Jim Balsillie as quoted by Emma Connors, 2006

Email is an impersonal, cold, plastic means of communications. It is difficult to resolve personal confrontations via Email. Angry tones, abrupt manners and even humour can be incorrectly perceived by readers of Email and frequent use of the medium results in the loss of personal, one-to-one contact which is important for effective communications and learning. In fact, Email is a

"...perfect medium to breed conflict escalation. It encourages aggressive tactics, locks in dislike, and weakens inhibitions against aggression..."

Raymond Friedman et al, 2003

Furthermore, you lose the nuances of body language and facial expressions that are important for good communications, especially when doing anything creative like brainstorming or exploring new ideas or innovative strategies.

Technology, like e-mails, is speeding up the pace of doing business and interacting with other people. On the other hand, staff spend around 2 hours per day trying to keep their inbox in control (Fiona Smith, 2009ab). They may get around 150 e-mails daily and view e-mails up to 30 to 40 times per day. It has been estimated that it takes around 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after being interrupted by an e-mail. This means that people viewing their inboxes every 5 minutes waste 8.5 hours weekly. Furthermore, these interruptions are distractions; if people are distracted in the middle of a task, they are more likely to commit errors. In addition to e-mails, there are instant messaging, phone calls, voicemail, SMS, Face book, Twitter, annoying ring tones, etc to handle

Be warned:

"...when groups work mostly through e-mail or conference calls rather than face-to-face, they tend to fight more and trust each other less. Apparently, this happens because people don't get the complete picture that comes from being there, as e-mails and phone calls provided little information about the demands that people face and the physical settings they work in, and cannot convey things such as facial expressions, verbal intonations, posture and group mood. So group members develop incomplete opinions of one another. If you are in a group that works mostly via the Web and the phone, and a group seems like a bunch of assholes, technology may be fuelling the problem..."

Robert Sutton, 2007

Additional disadvantages of emails are that

- commercially sensitive or embarrassing information is more traceable than telephones

- it is easier to prevents courts and others from accessing confidential communications between a lawyer and their client.

According to Rachel Nickless (2007), to handle the disadvantages of e-mails, one organisation that has more than 50 staff, only allows 6 staff to have individual connections to the Internet. The organisation has a central e-mail connection that is checked every 20 minutes and messages are distributed to the appropriate staff. The benefits of this are that sales are up and error rates are down. Furthermore, debtors are paying more promptly as it is easier to ignore an e-mail than a phone call.

On the other hand, Email is a form of communications; use it to create real communities. When sending emails remember

i) by sending an email to more than1 person, you are creating a community

ii) people make mistakes ‐ give them the benefit of the doubt

iii) people mis-read content

iv) think before you respond


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