Jun 29, 2007

E-mail bankruptcy

The term "e-mail bankruptcy" may have been coined as early as 1999 by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who studies the relationship between people and technology.

Professor Sherry Turkle said she came up with the concept after researching e-mail, and discovering that some people harbor fantasies about escaping their e-mail burden. She estimated that she has 2,500 pieces of unread e-mail in her inbox, is one of those people.

The supposed convenience of electronic mail has become too much for some people. Swamped by an unmanageable number of messages and plagued by annoying spam and viruses, some users are really overload.

Those declaring bankruptcy are swearing off e-mail entirely or, more commonly, deleting all old messages and starting fresh.

Many workers like the feeling that they have everything done at the end of the day, but e-mail overload gives them the sense that their work is never done. So, some are moving back to the telephone as their preferred means of communication.

Some people, who don't want to go through the drastic-seeming measure of declaring total bankruptcy, are trying to gently discourage the use of e-mail in their communications in favor of more personal calls or instant messages, but they continue to struggle with the question of whether or not to reply.

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Jun 6, 2007

Are teammates not talking to each other enough?

As the workplace speeds up, and time pressures become ever greater, are you in danger of having faceless business relationships with clients and colleagues?

A british report reveals that we are increasingly reliant on email and text messages at work, and that good old talking is taking a back seat. Xerox company quizzed 500 of their managers across the UK about the way they communicate in business, and the results were startling.

UK businesses are finding that their competitiveness and productivity is being seriously affected by overloaded e-mail inboxes. Over 70 per cent of managers said that up to half of their e-mails had attachments, many of which were not relevant to them or contained multiple versions of the same document.

More than half of the managers admitted they have business relationships with people they only contact by email, not only have they never met, but they have never actually spoken. A similar amount of people also said they received far too many emails about issues that could be better resolved with a quick phone call or a conversation.

Are people not talking to each other enough, and are we putting our social skills of personal interaction and communication in jeopardy?

The report finds that 83 per cent of managers believe that by choosing typing over talking we risk losing our ability to relate to one another. And, worryingly, the under-thirties in the survey -the first texting generation- saw no problem with the abundance of keyboard-generated messages.

You can't build effective relationships between teams, or with clients and colleagues, purely with electronic communication. Business is about people, and to understand each other clearly, we need other prompts, such as voice tone, facial expression and body language. Misunderstandings caused by email are extremely common.

Opting out of verbal communication also risks damaging performance. How can you get the best from someone by firing off an email giving them work to do? It's an imposition; you have no idea of their workload, or priorities - or if they are even there! Dumping on people via email puts pressure on them, and causes stress, overload and resentment.