First-Face Communication: Is Digital Technology Impacting Leadership Communication Effectiveness?

By Nickitas, Donna M. | Nursing Economics, March/April 2019 | Go to article overview

First-Face Communication: Is Digital Technology Impacting Leadership Communication Effectiveness?


Nickitas, Donna M., Nursing Economics


In most workplaces, including my own, digital communication is used daily to achieve organizational workflow activities, goals, and outcomes. Without a doubt, it is the most convenient communication method. However, recently I observed that digital technology convenience is impacting organizational messaging and leadership communication effectiveness. Why meet in-person when you can send an email? The answer is simple; it depends on the nature and seriousness of the message. However, there are times when the message is better said first in face-to-face communication.

As a chief academic officer and editor of this journal, I know that face-to-face communication is still by far the most powerful interaction to achieve strategic vision and tactical strategies. It provides for a personal connection, builds trust, and minimizes misinterpretation and misunderstanding between individuals or groups. Without physical cues, facial expressions/gestures, or the ability to respond immediately, the risk for miscommunication and disconnection is huge, allowing conflict to escalate quickly. Physical presence empowers communication toward greater collaboration and imagination, causing ideas to flow more freely. As nurses, we recognize that communication is more than just words. Much of our daily interactions with patients, families, communities, and other healthcare providers is through our sixth sense or intuition. Verbal and nonverbal communications are foundational to our professional workflow, and yet, digital technology may be impacting our leadership communication effectiveness.

Technology Is Necessary, But May Not Always Be Better

As chief nursing officers, academic deans, and directors, we are responsible for allocating, directing, and supporting human and fiscal resources. Our effectiveness often depends on our communication competencies; detecting body language, feelings, tone, and reactions. These nonverbal cues underline the importance that our words matter but when words are spoken inperson they matter more. We know that face-toface communication is the preferred option over technology. We often default to technology out of necessity. The digital age has changed and transformed the way we communicate and interact with one another at work. Digital methods themselves are not detrimental as many of our smart devices help us improve productivity, increase performance, and inspire creativity. Personally, my relationship with this digital environment not only distracts me from the "immediate moment," but also may negatively impact my communication effectiveness. It disrupts, blurs, and may even create boundaries, hampering others to connect with me and me with them. Digital communication is instantaneous, convenient, and allows for quick dissemination of information but it may hurt how work gets done. Fewer words "online" may not be best practice for building leadership capacity for the organization. …

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