Employees Prefer E-Mail to Face-to-Face Conversations. Why?
A leader’s primary tool of engagement is communication. Done right, interactions with collaborators (up, down and sideways), are transparent, purposeful and respectful. And included in ‘respectful’ are considerations of the person, and of time. You, as a participant, must dedicate your full attention to the conversation and its goal, but also keep it short. Or, more accurately, only as long as it needs to be to achieve understanding, agreement and next steps.
Which brings us to a recently issued report from Webtorials that finds that professional people do not value in-person conversations as much as they do less personal e-mail communications.
Here in a chart are the topline results from the study, where you will see how prized e-mail communications are:
The authors of the study suggest that the relative lack of interest in face-to-face meetings is skewed by people’s negative views of meetings, rather than in-person collaborative conversations that could raise awareness and agreement.
Alternatively, we think this could reflect the poor quality of their in-person meetings. How do those one-on-ones with the boss go? Are they true two-way conversations, or dictations from superior to subordinate? The latter would certainly get poor grades in a survey. In meetings with co-workers, are there difficult situations where people lacking good interactive skills struggle to converse effectively efficiently? That could also cause in-person meetings to be less valued.
The runaway popularity of e-mail may also be due to the ability to control response. If you get an urgent e-mail, you still have the chance to ponder your response before replying. That enhanced ability to control the conversation may be its prime attraction.
It is also most flexible in adding people and mass communicating. It is immediate, too. You can respond and “converse” regardless of location thanks to smartphone technology. On the downside, it can also be used to push problems off one’s plate onto others, with a digital trail useful, frankly, in covering one’s butt.
Great leaders create a working environment where the in-person meeting becomes the most valuable, with e-mail and phone conversations coming in second. The reason? You as the leader set strong expectations about how team-members treat each other with respect, and value all input. You also set efficiency expectations. Lingering chats and wasteful meetings are kept to a minimum. Everyone’s time is considered an asset to be used as efficiently as possible.
The report’s results, which include primarily professionals in North America, the UK, France and Germany, probably reflect the less-than efficient way in-person interaction happen in too many organizations, and offer insight into how a transformational leader can impact these preferences. Grab the chance make all interactions productive, increasing the value of those in-person meetings that are so critical in forging productive working relationships.
Do you prefer e-mail conversations to face-to-face encounters? Why do you consider them more efficient, if so? How could you make your in-person interactions more valuable to the people with whom you are talking?