Academic journal article Manager

Are We Losing the Personal Touch?

Academic journal article Manager

Are We Losing the Personal Touch?

Article excerpt

Working in a team is, for many people, one of the benefits of being in a corporate environment. It's good to surround yourself with people to talk to and be able to share the highs and lows of everything from last night's soap storyline to plans for tomorrow's big presentation. Yet in today's technology-filled workplace, there's a real danger that the simple skills of talking and interacting with colleagues are being lost.

Think about it. When was the last time you actually got up and went to talk to someone in another office? It's usually much easier to just email them and, when they don't respond, you have the "evidence" of your email to prove it was their fault, not yours, and that the information wasn't there when it was needed.

With 24/7 email access and "always on" wireless technology, BlackBerrys, texting, PDAs and other hand-held devices, most communication is now by electronic means, rather than face-toface, and the impact can be quite disturbing.

By communicating in such a one-dimensional fashion, we are in danger of losing the personal touch that makes such a difference to human relationships.

No motivating factor

Words are delivered in stark black and white, without any awareness of tone of voice, gestures or interpretation of body language. This is no way to encourage or motivate a colleague to do a good job.

We might think we are being more efficient, but the reality is different and the effects may be much longer-lasting than we all expect.

What's more, we are so driven by the need for a rapid response that we reply almost instantly, leaving no time to reflect on the style or expression of the message we want to convey and often creating new problems and misunderstandings.

It can leave employees working in a 'chimney stack' effect, each staring at a computer screen all day because it's easier than interacting with fellow workers.

The advent of iPods and MP3 players has added to the isolation. A survey published in October showed that 22% of employees used their MP3 for up to three hours a day in offices, listening to music as a way of shutting out the noise of their colleagues. This may be acceptable in some environments, although some 30% of British firms have actually banned them, as they are counterproductive to teamwork.

Teamwork is all about encouraging and motivating your colleagues to do a good job, but to be able to do that, we need to be aware of our own behaviour and how it impacts on others. …

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