It seems that, as human beings, most of the problems we run into are problems of communication. How we communicate (both in method and in meaning), with whom we communicate, how often we communicate... all of the choices we make lead to different outcomes. Part of the reason behind this is that everyone has their own unique experiences and perspectives, and what may come off as informative and straightforward to one person can be seen as passive-aggressive to another.
In my workplace, we've experimented a lot lately with various methods of communication. A workplace-approved IM client was introduced a few years ago, which not only gives users chat abilities, but also the ability to share your desktop with other users, which (as a software developer) can be extremely useful when diagnosing problems you can't reproduce.
On a more grand scale, our company has also developed an internal site for uploading videos. It has been used frequently for training videos, enabling sales staff to watch videos in the field on smartphones. It has also been used for company-wide announcements, allowing some of the executives to speak to the company without traveling as well as giving impersonal communication a more personal touch.
None of this, however, really addresses the meaning behind our communication. More frequent communication is not always better, if the quality of communication is not good. Email and IM can be more easily misinterpreted than phone conversation or in person meetings due to a lack of tone, inflection and rhythm. This is a problem I often try to resolve by using ellipses to mimic rhythm and emoticons to mimic tone, though an overuse of emoticons can be seen as unprofessional.
Additionally, everyone has their own preferred style of communication, which can lead to conflict. I myself prefer email and IM if in-person communication is not possible. Not only does it give me a chance to organize my thoughts before passing them along (extremely valuable for me, since many problems I end up resolving myself mid-email and never send it), but it also is a record of progress I can turn to. My boss strongly urges us to call people instead of email or IM, because of the increased immediacy. While I agree that there are times when phone calls are necessary, I believe we should be allowed to choose the methods of communication that work best for us and
those we are working with... and which method(s) of communication works best is going to be different for every different set of two people.
Posted by on Fri, 29 Jan 2010