Talking Hi-Tech at Work

Provo, Utah, July 26, 2005/PRNewswire/ – In today’s well-connected world, technology can help us communicate more easily. But when it comes to resolving broken promises, violated expectations or bad behavior, resorting to hi-tech methods like e-mail, voice mail or even text messages can amplify our problems – especially when confronting a peer, manager or subordinate at work.

According to a recent VitalSmarts survey, more than 87% of those polled admit using hi-tech means to resolve a workplace confrontation is not effective. Moreover, 89% say e-mail, text messaging, and voice mail can get in the way of good workplace relationships.

For example, a subordinate leaves a cryptic excuse on your voice mail after missing a key deadline, or a colleague e-mails your error-filled report to your boss instead of confronting you directly.

Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations and Bad Behavior, says technology exposes the weaknesses of our social systems and demands that we either resolve them or suffer more acutely for our failure to do so.

“E-mail is a prime example,” says Grenny. “One person’s grievance with a boss in the old days may only have affected the immediate team. Today a person can simply fill the ‘bcc’ line with their contact list and create no end of mischief for an erring colleague.”

Survey respondents cited convenience as a main reason for using hi-tech means when confronting a co-worker or subordinate. However, Grenny says people should think twice before pushing the “send” button and consider what they want long term – even if the way to get there isn’t always the easiest.

“Until people learn to ethically, maturely and directly deal with crucial issues, technology will only amplify rather than alleviate our dysfunctions,” says Grenny. “If people stopped and really asked themselves what they wanted, they wouldn’t be so quick to dash off a nasty note or leave a voice mail oozing with sarcasm.”

Grenny provides some situational examples that illustrate when face-to-face communication is the best method for getting the results you want at work:

  • Giving delicate feedback. Good example: You meet one-on-one to tell someone he has a hygiene problem. Any delicate or controversial conversation requires a tête-à-tête. Bad example: You bring your work team together and say, “Everyone who doesn’t have toxic body odor, please step forward. Not so fast, Robert.”
  • Working through a long-standing gripe. Good example: You set aside a time and calmly and professionally discuss something that has you concerned. Bad example: You e-mail a list of “The Top Ten Reasons Everyone Despises You.”
  • Confronting someone who has not delivered on a promise. Good example: As soon as you find out someone has let you down, you factually describe what you expected and what you got. You don’t wait and let it fester. Bad example: You share your complaint in your Last Will and Testament as an explanation for why you stiffed the guy.
  • Delivering a controversial message. Good example: You’re going to reject a person’s proposal – one that she has worked on for months. She deserves a complete explanation as well as an opportunity to engage in two-way dialogue. Bad example: You leave her a voice-mail saying, “Remember that proposal you came up with? Well, we rejected it. By the way, don’t forget the boss’s birthday lunch this afternoon.”
  • Delivering bad news. Good example: When letting someone go, you treat the bad news as bad news. You allow the other person to show their concern and emotions. Bad example: You send a singing e-card – “Ta-da ta-da ta-ta: You no longer work here.”


About VitalSmarts

Innovators in best practice training and consulting research, the founders of VitalSmarts have co-authored two New York Times bestsellers: Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations. VitalSmarts has helped thousands of organizations, including more than 300 of the Fortune 500, realize quick, hard-hitting results through its award-winning training programs using a method that no other training company yet offers. VitalSmarts currently has two training initiatives: Crucial Conversations® and Crucial ConfrontationsTM.

Note to Editor: Grenny can also provide five tips on how to successfully navigate a crucial confrontation at work regardless of rank, title, or issue. He is available for interviews.

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