E-mail can hurt office relations
By Justin Bachman
E-mail is the greatest business innovation in decades, right? Actually, it might be spelling the end of effective communication within many organizations, according to a new study of workplace e-mail.
A major problem is the sheer volume three-quarters of business e-mails aren't necessary, and only 25 percent help people do their jobs better, said Bob Williams, director of the communication consulting practice at Novations Group in Boston.
"E-mail has a linear structure and is unable to convey facial expression, body language or vocal nuance," Williams said. "With e-mail, one can't even interrupt with a question for clarification, so the potential for misunderstanding is major. Interruptions, after all, can have a purpose."
And because e-mail is impersonal, the sender feels safer or bolder and a random message may become uncharacteristically demanding, impertinent or accusatory, breeding defensiveness, warned Williams.
"Who hasn't gotten an e-mail that was used obviously just as a way to cover one's behind, as in 'Didn't you get my e-mail?' " Williams said. "Pretty soon, there's an escalating e-mail war under way in the organization."
So, the next time you're pointing your mouse toward the "compose" or "forward" icon, consider grabbing the phone or walking down the hall.