There is little doubt that emails have opened a whole new way of communicating in the workplace. Most of this is positive to workplace culture as it creates transparency and efficiency and often breaks down hierarchies and silos.
But there are also some real downsides! Used incorrectly, they can really undermine the advantages of face to face communication and conversation.
Are we gradually losing the art of direct honest and two way conversations in the workplace??
Increasingly in my 20 years working in big corporates I have seen the tendency for others to shift accountability and problems to others, laziness in engaging others face to face, and more infuriating ‘butt’ covering. It is not sufficient to assume someone is ‘informed’ by ‘cc-ing’ them into email communications! Too often people stop talking with each other and develop the art of talking at each other – all behind the safety net of a screen.
Email communication also delivers an expectation that we are available 24/7. There is seemingly no division now between work and home unless strict disciplines are in place to ‘drawer’ your iPhone or Blackberry when you arrive home.
Whether we like it or not, workplace cultures are being adversely affected by this. It does invite companies to have some defined protocols around when the use of emails (including cc’ing and bcc’ing) is appropriate – especially in relation to how decisions are made.
That also extends to leaders in the organisation. Unfortunately I have witnessed reckless use of emails to discipline or even dismiss staff…hitting the Reply All button can have some powerful, unfortunate and expensive consequences on occasions
Used well, emails are a powerful way of sharing information – used badly and without guidelines could they be resulting in less honesty and efficiency in our workplaces?
by Paul Bell