When managing by email is just not effective

In today’s modern world where technology has become tightly integrated in business, email has become a very popular tool in business. From sending project proposals to congratulating a colleague, email has become a part of our daily communications. But the ease of use of this technology has become one of the reasons for ineffective management. Instead of holding a meeting with team members, email exchanges fill inboxes with comments about meeting agenda. Instead of walking a few meters, if not feet, away to shake the hand of the top employee, we shoot emails instead. Email has been one of the reasons for diminishing interpersonal relationship, which is a necessary ingredient in any organization. There are even public courses on managing by email. Although, the global economy has introduced such concepts as virtual teams which need to be managed virtually as well, there is still no substitute for plain and simple direct, interpersonal communication. Plus, this introduces a lot of miscommunication and sometimes consumes a couple of megabytes of hard disk space just to get to the point because the message was misunderstood (this hard disk space issue is a big deal to a lot of IT professionals, especially to those who manage mail servers). Managers expect a lot from their subordinates while overlooking one very important facet of life – humanity. People still need to feel that their inner desire to be treated as human beings, and not just means to an end as far as business entities are concerned, is met. People are people with emotional needs and sometimes, those needs, when met, define the difference between empowerment and discouragement.

I like what Fred Thompson, former CEO of Jane Goodall Institute, said about managing by email.

I have a strong aversion to managing by email (also to cleaning out my mailbox!). If it’s really important, I ask my staffers to care enough to phone me, or … walk down the hall and actually see me. That gets my attention. It’s always amazed me how people in offices right next to one another will persist in communicating vital information exclusively by email. I really hate it when someone confuses sending an email with taking ownership or accountability.”

JCPenney, in a Jobing.com ad, has this to say about their store managers.

Our Store Manger’s are not walking around with a PDA checking off to-do’s or sitting in an office managing by email. Our Store Managers want four-wall accountability, to get involved, engage customers and develop their Associates for bigger and better roles. In our promote from within culture we want leaders, not just managers.

One of the best examples of NOT managing by email I have ever heard was a story by Tim Sanders entitled The XBOX Story. Go check it out.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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