Sunday, June 7, 2009

When a Text Just Won't Do

I fully embrace technology and all of the convenience and efficiency it provides, but there remain certain situations where the human touch trumps contact via text or email. For the most part I think folks over 40 understand this, but I’ve run into a lot of younger folks who feel a lot more comfortable interfacing with a keyboard, than they do handling their business face-to-face.

Recently, one of my younger co-workers received the tragic news of the untimely death of her father and she informed our entire staff via an email explaining that due to a death in her family, she’d be going home to Illinois immediately and we shouldn’t expect her to return prior to the end of her contract in July. The email also requested that we not try to contact her. Although I completely understand the shock and devastation of losing her father, I think a quick telephone call to our executive director would have been more appropriate. Maybe in this instance she was just too upset to call?

Two years ago, I hired a communications director who felt more comfortable shooting off a quick email instead of taking 10 short steps to my desk to ask or respond to a question. How the hell could she function suitably as a communications director if she couldn’t verbally communicate with her co-workers? Would it have been reasonable for me to terminate her via a text or an email? No... I had to do the deed seated across from her at our conference room table and listen while she ranted on and on about the unfairness of the situation.

I think many folks just don’t understand that emails have tones and attitudes and sometimes we misread the spirit in which the email has been written. People often hide behind technology so they don’t have to deal with the hassle and messiness of interpersonal communication. One-on-one exchanges requires negotiation, compromise, collaboration. When communicating via email and text, this exchange doesn’t occur. For some, it’s safer, cleaner, quicker, less encumbered.