Sending emails is so much easier. All you have to do is articulate your request or concern in minimum words possible. Once you’ve achieved this feat, click ‘send’ and off goes the message to the recipient. But, having done that did you have to follow-up with a phone call? Well, you are among the lucky few if you never had to, however, you only make up for a small percentage of people because the rest of them don’t get a response or so says a study.
Curious case of over-and-underestimation
Published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the research was conducted by Vanessa K. Bohns and M. Mahdi Roghanizad. Around 45 participants were asked to approach 10 strangers each and ask them to fill a survey. While half were asked to do it over an email the rest were asked to meet in person and complete the task. The researchers found out that people tend to believe that they can be persuasive through email communication and underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction.
It is definitely debatable whether the study results are applicable in work environment, especially because in such a setup employees know each other by either name or face and can connect the dots. But, does that justify one to exclusively turn to one mode of communication only and undermine what could also possibly work out equally (or better)? While it is true that emails sent to strangers may not reap results (think spam and phishing?), it will be interesting to see how many people like yourself would actually prefer or respond to email requests by colleagues over meetings or vice versa.
Another study affirming the claim?
A handout by Professor Emiretus of Psychology in the UCLA, Albert Mehrabian states a research finding which affirms why words alone can’t convince the recipient. He found out that “7 percent of a message was derived from the words, 38 percent from the intonation, and 55 percent from the facial expression or body language. In other words, the vast majority of communication is not carried by our words alone.”
Pertinent question: To do or not to do?
Employees can feel they have little to no time to chat up to colleagues, even if it has to be done remotely via video conferencing. But, should that be the attitude? To think of in-person meetings a waste of time as well or inferior to easy-to-send emails?
One must understand that accomplishing work relies on connections made at work which happen over a period of time. Relationships are built vis-à-vis implicit inference or understanding verbal as well as non-verbal cues. This is to say that tête-à-tête ensures that misunderstandings get weeded out in stage one itself. Of course, this is not to say that it is the only valid to go forward since its feasibility too should be borne in mind. For instance, it may be easy for start-ups to encourage in-person discussions instead of getting caught up in a loop of emails, it may not be possible for large organizations to escape the email culture. The latter could perhaps look at encouraging employees to engage in-person as much as possible and not just rely on one means of communication. Why? Well largely because an organization's work culture gets fabricated on the basis of how the daily business is conducted. It sets a working relationship tone whether on top or in the lower order of hierarchy.
Organizations should keep multiple channels of communication open so that positive relations are established both within and outside with clients. A battle must be waged against any conflicts which might arise from a block in communication pipe. Doing this will also minimize productivity gaps and employees will feel more at ease with their understanding of how they are to function.
If one were to ask you to pick between email and an in-person meeting, what would you choose? Or, is there an alternate solution for the world to know?