Magazine article Workforce

Signs of Status Even in E-Mail

Magazine article Workforce

Signs of Status Even in E-Mail

Article excerpt

Office Hierarchies

You get to work in the morning and fire off a barrage of e-mails. Some are serious, some light. And you make some decisions as you write. Do you want to CC or RE? Should there be a happy face at the end?

Your e-mail style might offer clues on your role and status at work, leading other people to make some judgments about you, a management researcher has found.

Even in relatively flat organizations, people find many ways of expressing their status, says David Owens, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University. He spent a year researching status at a company he isn't at liberty to name. Apart from a small management group, the organization gave all the employees the same status. What he discovered was this: the status of a person in a group tends to influence the way he or she behaves electronically.

When you put together a team with few levels of status, it's difficult for an employee to understand what his or her responsibilities are and whose values are going to prevail, he says. At the company he studied, conversations were conducted mainly by e-mail. Owens observed that even without an organizational hierarchy, status still existed. …

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