Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is Communication Overload Leading to a Communication Breakdown?

Please welcome guest blogger, Patricia Walker.  Patricia is in Steve Boese's HR Technology Class at Rochester Institute of Technoloy (RIT).  

In this day and age with all the various forms of technology, it puzzles me that communication is still such a big issue. If you need to reach someone you can meet in person, write a letter/note, call, email, or even fax them. I know those are the more traditional forms but they are all still functional. If you are looking for something a little more up-to-date or immediate there is always: Instant Messaging, Text/BlackBerry Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blog, Chirping/Push Messaging, Skype, or Web Chat (just to name a few). Again, all of the above are ways to get in contact with someone.

As accessible as all of these communication forms have made us, it still seems that there is a great lack of communication. And this goes for personal relationships as well as within the workplace. It is easier than ever to reach out to someone, yet some of these means of communication allow us to distance of self from the individual. Although they are very simple and often quite efficient many of the above listed communication forms have taken the personal element right out of the communication process. I can communicate with someone through these forms all day/every day and I still may or may not form a bond and/or relationships

At a organization I worked for all we did was email and IM each other. It was just common place. You could be sitting right next to the person, yet everyone opted to message each other. At first I was quite put off by all of this and my feelings were more than hurt. But that was because I could not fathom how "someone who is literally elbow to elbow with me would communicate via message rather than just take the time to talk to me in person." I understand that sometimes it may be quicker but I am sure that in some instances it was much easier to just explain the situation to me rather than type the whole thing out. And with these non-verbal forms of communication it is difficult to pick up tone and context. Which can lead to even more problems, especially with misinterpretation.

For long distance purposes the impersonal forms of communication are perfectly acceptable. I mean you cannot be everywhere at once. It is a great means to reconnect. I have a number of family members that are overseas. And honestly I would not be able to communicate with them as frequently without these forms of communication. But my concern is these forms of communication are becoming routine and even habit. We have become detached from the whole process and are just going through the motions. People are not require to verbally contact or actually meet with one another. And this brings me to me real issue at hand: Employee communication.

At the previously referred organization managers as well as all employees did not really interact with one another. They may have emailed or IMed each other when needed but that was it. I think it would be quite difficult to effectively run an organization when the employees and managers do not communicate with one another. But remember they are not required or even encouraged to.Employees would just come in do their job, and only came in contact with someone when necessary. And with all of this quick transmission communication it has me wondering: how are more seriously issues addressed? It seems that you will eventually have to have some form of verbal, if not face to face contact. And why is it that we only want to meet or phone each other when somethings up? This type of environment is breeding the lack of communication problem.

I would be more understanding if more organizations supported these newer forms of communication and found effective ways to utilize them. But it seems that sometimes it is causing more than good. Employees are important to the organization so it is important to appropriately communicate with them. Ensure that there needs are being met. I mean actually check on them, do not simply send a stock message as routine (because you are supposed to). Let them know that they are a person and not a position. I mean communication is the breaking point in many relationships. If you can not successfully connect with employees, how will you convey strategic goals, policies, mission, values, and ideas with them?

Don't get me wrong I am infatuated with all of this social networking and these advancements in the communication, I just did expect that these advancements would actually hinder the actually process it is intended to benefit.  Are there certain matters that need to be addressed in person? In what ways can we facilitate better communication?

Patricia can be reached on t @PatricaAWalker 

1 comment:

Steve Boese said...

Thanks Dee for participating in the project! Much appreciated. I think Patricia raises some great points about our connected workplace and whether or not we are losing something of a personal connection with our colleagues. Nicely done!