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Is Communication Technology Causing You to Hate Your Job?

“We all struggle with how much we want to be connected and communicate, but organizations and supervisors need to be mindful of the time demands and tone of their messages,” says Dr. William Becker about the findings of his new research. 

July 28,  2015

By Elaine Cole

Smart phones, emails, texts, tweets. Advances in communication technology have made it easier for organizations to connect with their workforce outside of normal work hours.

But is that a good thing?

In his research, “Hot Buttons and Time Sinks: The Effects of Electronic Communication During Nonwork Time on Emotions and Work-Nonwork Conflict,” William Becker, assistant professor of management, entrepreneurship and leadership at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, found that being connected 24-7 can have a detrimental effect between work and your personal life.

“Being in constant connection is a necessary evil many employees have accepted, but those sending the texts and emails can stop to think about the tone of their message and how intrusive that communication may be to the recipient’s life outside of work, which then affects performance on the job,” Becker said.

Becker and his colleagues found that emails with a negative tone or those that required more time to answer led to anger over the disruption of the employee’s home life, such as interrupting dinner with your spouse, taking time away from your child’s soccer game, or even waking you in the middle of the night. Not surprisingly, the conflict was greater when the communication came from an abrasive supervisor.

“Organizations should establish guidelines for post-work emails dealing with proper communication style, acceptable hours of use and which topics should be discussed face-to-face,” Becker said.

The bright side? Short, positive emails that required no response, for example thanking an employee for hard work on a just-finished project, caused no conflict at all. Also, employees who felt less distinction between work and life did not feel bad about time spent on emails, but they were still upset by negative emails.

“Hot Buttons and Time Sinks: The Effects of Electronic Communication During Nonwork Time on Emotions and Work-Nonwork Conflict.” M. Butts, W. Becker and W. Boswell, Academy of Management Journal June 2015