Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Working in the High-Tech Workplace

I’ve been reading “The Servant Leader,” an excellent book on management by James Autry (Autry JA. The Servant Leader. New York, NY; Crown Publishing, 2001). The gist of the book describes a form of management based on respect, honesty and love, which empowers the people you work with. There is a chapter in the book that addresses life in the high-tech workplace, and it offers four myths related to such a life. I thought they were worth noting here.

Myth #1: We are more connected. While it is now easier to shoot a message to a colleague or to many colleagues at the same time, this is not an actual connection. Consider Facebook. How many Facebook friends do you have? How many have you actually seen in the last year? How many would you consider to be real and true friends? The simple fact we can send a message to someone instantaneously does not mean we are actually connecting. Some time ago I wrote another post about a book entitled “The Tyranny of E-Mail.” It described how much email takes of our time for how little it gives in return.  I was once astonished to receive an email from a colleague when I was in the research department. His office was next to mine, literally 5 feet away, and he did not simply come over to ask his question. Email depersonalizes interactions and communication.
Myth #2: All our electronic tools have made communication fast, better and more effective. Faster, maybe. Better, no. One a shallow level, email lacks nuance; this is why emoticons were born, so that someone might recognize that a comment read at face value actually was not intended to sting. And this allows for anonymity and deferral. We can claim we got work done by sending an email asking someone else for information. We expect them to drop what they are doing to serve our needs.
Myth #3: Having people come to work in a central place is being made obsolete by the new technology. Now we use programs such as GoToMeeting or other group meeting programs. We have portals, websites, blogs, and other ways to being people “together” for purposes of getting work done. Nothing works better than actually bringing people together in person. Yes, this is problematic when we have people across the country, but even here, we can yoke technology to help by conferencing them in.
Myth #4: When people multitask they get more things done. I know this is not true. I do not work on more than a single project at a time, because I will not effectively get my work done. Like most people I have many projects that I am involved with, but when I work on one, it gets my full attention. We are not designed to multitask; research has demonstrated how poorly we do so.
Let me be clear. The technology tools we have do help. I am simply saying they do not substitute for actual meetings with actual people in order to get actual work accomplished.


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