How Your Employees Communicate with Each Other Does Matter

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Phone, email, text, instant message (IM), in person? Unfortunately, many younger workers have grown up in a world where face-to-face (or even phone) communications are not deemed necessary in order to interact effectively with others. The nuances of verbal communications have given way to graphical emoticons and cryptic acronyms. Why bother interpreting visual or audible cues when there is a Smiley face for that?

Have we forgotten about the importance of body language and vocal inflections? In the animal kingdom virtually all creatures converse, not with the written word, but rather by sight and sound. And they apparently are quite successful at it. If sophisticated communications within species through visual and audible means is the product of millions of years of evolution, what does that say about humans and texting? Is this really the next phase in our evolution… or not?

Virtually every school child has a cell phone, but do you ever see them actually talking on it?

OK, the written word separates man from beast. We are the only known species on Earth that has this skill, and it has literally and positively transformed mankind in countless ways.  And to be perfectly honest, email technology has drastically improved on “snail mail”. But how many of our readers will admit to emailing or texting a coworker who sits in the office next door, or worse yet, the next cubicle over? Guilty as charged.

Why do we do this? Maybe we need to keep written records? Come on. Maybe it is a time saver? Right!  Or just maybe it is our nature to be lazy or non-confrontational, even in benign conversations. If I am not facing you or you can’t instantly react to my question, request, demand, etc., then I can move on to the next task with minimal stress. Email and texting also provides the benefit of not requiring immediate action on the part of the receiver. I can simply ignore your text if I am busy or otherwise uninterested in what you have to say. At least with IM technology I know you are online and have instantly received my message, with IM protocol stating that an immediate response is requested.

And we will not even address the fact that texting and IM frankly encourages bad spelling and grammar. That’s a whole other issue impacting business operations today. We will save that for a future post.

What does all this say about productivity in the office? Not much. Some corporations actually shut down email services during key business hours, forcing verbal contact with others. Though this might seem Draconian to some, some of these companies claim they can measure improvements in productivity. In fact, other companies shut down email after hours so as not to disturb employees’ private time out of the office.

Business runs smoothly on effective communications; so think about the most impactful, not the easiest or least confrontational means, for interacting with others. HR should lead the charge in promoting personal and verbal interaction between employees, whenever practical and prudent.

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