The sheer volume of correspondence managers get today though online communication can be a heavy burden for many people. Vicky Farrell and Jeff Phelps, the people featured in the case, are clearly dissatisfied with what they see as a highly intrusive way of communication. While it is true that e-mail can be a boon when a short, quick message needs to be delivered in a short time, managers should definitely try to work out a way to be effective communicators without letting the negative effects of the innovation interfere with their lives. Managing e-mail correspondence becomes an important priority that can have an impact on one’s career.
To increase the proportion of time devoted to thinking at the time when one has to manage a constant deluge of e-mails, managers can take a few simple actions. In the first place, they can do what Vicky practices: simply log off the e-mail for a short time period to give yourself an opportunity to get your thoughts together and work out a solution to a difficult problem or come up with a new idea. This can be difficult given the expectations that people will be continuously checking their mailboxes that persist in some offices; however, it takes some persuasion on the part of these people to explain to their colleagues that they view e-mail as a constant interruption. Telephone can indeed be a replacement for urgent e-mails, and Vicky has successfully used it as a way to prevent too frequent interruption.
Managers can also make a point of checking their e-mails within reasonably short time periods, for example, once every two hours. In this way, they will take control of the stream of information. Besides, they can try to accomplish more at meetings or through telephone conversations so that there is less need for follow-up, as well as give more explicit information to their subordinates.
In working with emails Ms. Farrell and Mr. Phelps most probably deal with the barrier to communication known as competition. They have difficulty in perceiving the contents of the e-mail since they are affected by many things going on around them. At the point when they receive their message, there are so many conflicting assignments and issues that they have a hard time finding out what exactly they should be doing now – devoting all their attention to the e-mail or thinking of other things.
In addition to the damage done by constant interruption, as managers note, e-mail does have some pros in it. It has enormously enhanced the productivity of managers, allowing them to save time on setting up phone calls, reducing the time spent in meetings, and cutting on the time needed to organize information. Complex problems are cleared up in the matter of seconds when people can resort to e-mail as a way to clarify a point or a detail. The ease and convenience are especially obvious in the case of international communication. With e-mails, one can easily drop a line to anyone around the world and wait for the message to reach them at their destination regardless of the time differences. The ability to attach all types of files like documents, images, and Power Point presentations cuts dramatically on the costs and improves the ease of transferring these materials.
However, as Ms. Farrell and Mr. Phelps point out, e-mail is a serious interruption in the days of modern managers. Too often, the need to check the stream of letters interferes with the creative process. Turning out fresh ideas is a process that takes time and concentration, and checking e-mails all the time is the opposite of that. It is difficult to write a well-thought out report when one has to write short messages in response to questions all the time. Besides, it may actually disrupt the very communication that e-mail is called upon to improve when people are forced to write brief messages without much content as opposed to thinking well and writing something really deep. Ms. Farrell and Mr. Phelps also feel that their lives are being controlled by their personal mailboxes since they fear separation from their e-mails even for a short period of time.
Speaking of Vicky Farrell’s situation, I would recommend her to have a straight talk with all people in the office and explain her situation clearly to them. The problem may be that many people are unaware of her attitude and keep sending her e-mails on every little occasion. She can in fact get back to everyone in her address book, asking them to restrict the quantity of emails per day and instead write lengthier messages with more content so that she can answer them straight away.
Similarly, Jeff Phelps should try to think of similar things working on his email. It is probably too early for him to get a Blackberry. If he already feels overwhelmed with e-mail correspondence, owning a Blackberry will make life even worse for him. Obviously, he has to ask himself what are the pros and cons of being constantly on the line for him. If he feels it robs him of the precious opportunity to be alone with his thoughts and ideas at the time when he needs privacy, and it outweighs the benefits of staying tuned to the latest news, then his policy of not having the device is probably wise.
Strategies for dealing with information age can vary from one individual to another, but certainly taking these issues under control are important for modern managers. Turning email communication into an effective tool that will propel one’s career is a must in modern office environments. This is why, although in many cases people view e-mails as destructive, it is critical to learn to mitigate their shortcomings and use their advantages.