When I worked in Holland back in the 1990’s I would often find myself talking with my friend Pieter de Wit at 5pm on Friday. Business hours generally were 9-6, but on Fridays everyone would leave at 5pm with a quick “prettig weekend.” I remember once we talked about whether having gray hair was a prerequisite for having your ideas respected in the workplace. Ah, youth!
Pieter and I have had plenty of conversation on some of my recent blogs about Social Media. He is an old-school geek, and does not totally agree with a world where people take notes in a meeting on a IPad rather than a piece of paper. Nor does he comprehend a world where people check their Klout scores daily. So, it probably should not be a surprise that Pieter is the kind of fellow who will always respond to an email. If you call him, he will legitimately try to answer or call you right back. I haven’t asked, but I assume he does not agree with a world where people do not respond to voice mail or email.
I think there is a widening gap in world between people like Pieter and people who see all forms of communications as bulletin board to either be informed or to inform others, with no need for a response. At the heart of this difference is the definition of ‘conversation’.
There is more at stake here than just etiquette. Communication is the driving factor behind workplace productivity, and that productivity is the heart, soul and purpose of technology.
In David Simon’s blog “Ignoring the Sender” (http://justwrite15.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/ignoring-the-sender/) he bemoans the fact that we are a ‘send’ Society. Asking for feedback is all but futile, he posts, as it will be summarily ignored. I think he has it right in a sense, but in another sense I think the art of communicating is just changing to resemble an ancient model.
I think back to the days of smoke-signals. In Roman times it is estimated that a complex network of stations could route a smoke-signal from modern England to the Capitoline Hill in Rome in only a few hours. I think our modern Twitter chats that leave everything out in the open and beg for interpretation in their nuance are similar. Fleeting messages are just passing like smoke in the sky to inform us. It is our democratic duty to join the ‘conversation’ by simply passing the message on to the next station by re-tweeting or posting and possibly including a smidgen of our own comments. Will they be read and appreciated by others? There is no way to tell because no one ever really responds in the traditional sense. The signals just keep passing overhead.
The real question here is, are these new norms in communications hindering workplace productivity? Or, are they making us more efficient in targeting our messages and thus alleviating the world of the noise being sent across the airwaves of yester-year? Does the banished need to respond in a traditional way free us to be more productive in our daily work?
I am not sure and would be interested in any of your opinions. I know I will most likely receive an email or phone call from Pieter, but, if you wouldn’t mind, please post yours on this blog-page. I have a hard time responding to all the messages I receive each day via email and I am usually too busy to answer my phone.