Do you use technology to avoid human interaction?

Effective communication requires the proper tools to match the message.
Effective communication requires the proper tools to match the message.

Technology is a tool that can be used to enhance our ability to communicate with our fellow employees. Unfortunately we often use it as a crutch to avoid having to actually interact with others. How many ways can we send a message that lets us actually avoid human contact?

What is appropriate?

My friend Janine Truitt, the author of blog the Aristocracy of HR, (on Twitter @CzarinaofHR), wrote in a recent post that the many methods of digital communication of hinder our ability to communicate because we pick the wrong medium for the message we are trying to send. Some of the examples she gives are:

  • Sending lengthy emails when a conversation in person or on the phone would be more appropriate
  • Texting someone their work schedule with no way of confirming they got it
  • Texting your boss that you will not be a work
  • Using social media to communicate a message that should not be so public

I think there are several factors that go into these mistakes.

Why people misuse communication technology

There are several reasons people use communication technology and don’t pick the medium appropriate for the message. These include:

  1. They are being egocentric, in other words, they pick the technology that is most comfortable to them. You may see generational difference here, with younger people being much more conversant in texting than older workers.
  2. They are using whatever is most convenient at the moment. If you are sick in bed and not going to make it to work many may find it easier to text than to send an email. Or if you are sitting in front of your computer already it may be the easiest to dash off an email, or use an internal messaging system.
  3. They actually want to avoid an actual interaction with the person, in which case you avoid making a call, even though a call would be the most immediate way of confirming the other party received the message.

I am sure you can think of other reasons as well. How can you improve this situation?

Improving communication at your company

There are several ways you can improve communication in your organization. Not too surprisingly the involve communication. The first step is to define what is considered appropriate methods for various situations. You don’t want people texting that they will be late? Make sure they understand that and tell them what the most appropriate method is. Don’t want employees using email internally, as I encountered with one client? Then tell them and have the alternative method defined and available. In this case it was Chatter because it required abbreviated messages that saved time.
Once you have figured out the best methods in your mind revisit that list in terms of your employee population. Are you being egocentric? Are you a baby boomer making decisions on your preferred method yet you have a millennial workforce? Perhaps you need to think in terms of getting messages out in the preferred method of your targeted communicators.
The third thing to do is reward and reinforce the use you have decided upon. Don’t let people ignore communication methods that have been agreed upon for tasks and situations. Keep the training going on the “proper” way to communicate. Don’t allow people to avoid personal contact when that personal contact is important.
Improving your internal communication will solve many problems before they become problems. The employee that is texting they will be absent may be less inclined to deliver that message if they have to actually talk to someone.

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