Does technology help or hinder workplace relationships?

Technology may have made communicating across teams easier, but it also has the potential to undermine workplace culture

Does technology help or hinder workplace relationships?

It goes without saying that technology has revolutionised both the way we work and the way we communicate forever – but is it really a change for the better?

Leadership and people management specialist Karen Gately said digital may have made communicating across teams a little easier, but it also has the potential to undermine workplace culture.

“I think technology is one of the biggest obstacles to building healthy relationships,” Gately told HRD.

“People become keyboard warriors and we just sit at our desks and have arguments and try and resolve problems through technology.”

Gately said technology gives many employees a sense of detachment which means they’re often less rational when communicating online.

“People will often say things that they otherwise wouldn’t and they’ll say things in ways that they might not choose to say them if they were actually sitting in front of the person having the interaction,” she said.

“The other reality with our digital world is that everything moves really quickly and we can fail to stop and really appreciate certain moments or to bring people together to have a meaningful connection – whether it be through celebrating successes or learning as a team. If we try to do things by digital means too much, we miss the opportunity to foster those relationships and learn from our experiences.”

Of course, Gately doesn’t for a moment suggest abandoning digital communication – it’s integral to the success of many teams, particularly those which are geographically dispersed. But she does say HR can take measures to stop it sabotaging company culture.

“Communication is fundamental to an organisation’s ability to thrive and the quality of communication is fundamental so we need to enable organisations to be more effective in the way they communicate,” said Gately.

“A big part of that is the face-to-face interaction and it’s the relationship-building so HR needs to play a role in helping organisations to get better at the way they not only share information but the way they explore ideas, the way the make decisions and the way they build relationships.

Gately added that leaders need to think beyond just communication in terms of the staff newsletter or updates around appointments or new client wins – instead they need to think about communication as a core capability that links the potential of the business to performance.

 
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