Karen Gately is a leadership and people management specialist based in Australia – she says digital may have made communicating across teams a little easier but it also has the potential to destroy workplace culture.
“I think technology is one of the biggest obstacles to building healthy relationships,” Gately tells HRD. “People become keyboard warriors and we just sit at our desks and have arguments and try and resolve problems through technology.”
Gately says technology gives many employees a sense of detachment which means they’re often less rational or collection 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 tells HRD.
“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, absolutely 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 says 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,” says 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.
“Communication is a central priority around all of that so we need to think beyond just communication in terms of the staff newsletter or updates around appointments or new client wins – we actually need to think about communication as a core capability that links the potential of our business to performance.”
Do your employees bring their ‘whole selves’ to work?
Poor performance or mental illness?
How HR can prepare for future challenges
It goes without saying that technology has revolutionised both the way we work and the way we communicate for ever – but is it really a change for the better?