An opportunity to be the good guy email use in the workplace
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AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE GOOD GUY EMAIL USE IN THE WORKPLACE. Kara Murray. Study Background. How is email used in the workplace? In this organization, a small nonprofit trade association, individuals can email entire staff at one time using the everyone distribution list

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AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE GOOD GUY EMAIL USE IN THE WORKPLACE

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An opportunity to be the good guy email use in the workplace

AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE GOOD GUYEMAIL USE IN THE WORKPLACE

Kara Murray


Study background

Study Background

  • How is email used in the workplace?

  • In this organization, a small nonprofit trade association, individuals can email entire staff at one time using the everyone distribution list

  • Specific concern with the everyone distribution list (“everyone d-list”)


Study questions

Study Questions

  • To what end are these messages sent?

  • What are staff attitudes towards this method of communication?

  • What level of staff are the most frequent users?

  • Are there unspoken rules regarding the use of this method of communication and how are those rules learned?


Research motivation

Research Motivation

  • To determine if others shared my perceptions

  • To determine what value the emails sent to the everyone d-list have to the organization

  • To develop a basis for comparison to other organizations

  • Based on findings possibly make changes to communication methods


Findings overview

Findings Overview

  • The everyone d-list is considered valuable to staff in many ways

  • Staff members recognize the unique nature of this method of communication

  • EVP and the rest of staff believe the use of this email system affects the “culture” of the workplace


Definition of culture

Definition of Culture

“A pattern of beliefs and expectations shared by the organization's members, that produces norms that

powerfully shape the behavior of individuals or groups in organizations.“1

1 Schwartz, Howard and Davis, Stanley. (1981), "Matching Corporate Culture and Business Strategy," Organizational Dynamics, 10 (Summer), 30-48.


Methods

Methods

  • Over 400 Emails from June-December

  • 11 Interviews

  • 2 follow up interviews

  • 30 pages of field notes

  • Selective Open Coding as defined by Emerson, Fretz and Shaw in Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

  • Developed email categories, with the categories corroborated in interviews


Participants

Participants

  • Employees in a small nonprofit trade association in Northern Virginia

  • 26 women and 10 men

  • 11 employees age 20-30

  • 16 employees age 31-40

  • 9 employees age 41+

  • 9 staff members have worked at the organization for over five years.

  • 6 staff members have worked at the organization for less than year.


Everyone d list emails 12 4 07

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07

From:  Susan (midlevel staff)

 Sent:  Tue 12/4/2007 8:54 AM

 To:  EVERYONE (Internal) 

 Subject:  In the Kitchen

 _____________________________________________

Good morning

Please have a Krispy Kreme donut compliments of Government Relations.


Everyone d list emails 12 4 071

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07

From:  Steve (lower level staff)

Sent: Tue 12/4/2007 10:03 AM

 To:  EVERYONE (Internal)

 Subject:  Christmas Riddles

_____________________________________________________________

Christmas Riddles

What did the reindeer say before launching into his comedy routine?This will sleigh you.

What do lions sing at Christmas?Jungle bells!

When is a boat like a pile of snow? When it's adrift.

What do you call the fear of getting stuck in a chimney?

Santaclaustrophobia


Everyone d list emails 12 4 072

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07

From: Julia (Vice President of a department)

Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:33 PM

To: EVERYONE (Internal)

Subject: Wellness Information in the Kitchen

______________________________________________________________

You may have noticed that we now have a "Wellness" area on the bulletin board in the kitchen.  Marissa has put together all kinds of interesting information on food, diet, exercise and recipes!    We'll also have a Wellness Reference Binder on the kitchen table which will contain fact sheets on all kinds of other related topics.

So next time you're in the kitchen, take a look and a big thank you goes out to Marissa for putting the bulletin board together and Melissa for putting the fact sheet binder together!! 


Everyone d list emails 12 4 073

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07

From:Joseph (VP of a department)

Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:36 PM

To: EVERYONE (Internal)

Subject: RE: Wellness Information in the Kitchen

you didnt notice? me neither. lets see. hmm. ok... try this. the wellness board is juuuuuust to the right of the three, large, empty krispy kreme donut boxes.


Everyone d list emails 12 4 074

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07

From: Marissa (mid level staff)

 Sent:  Tue 12/4/2007 1:46 PM

 To:  EVERYONE (Internal)

 Cc:  

 Subject: RE: Wellness Information in the Kitchen

_________________________________________________________ 

I hope to update this every month or so with new ideas, recipes and articles...if there is anything you would like to see on the board, or you come across anything interesting (like, say, "the Health Benefits of Fried Dough"), send me a note or clip the article so we can share it ;) 

Thanks!


What can we tell from these messages

What can we tell from these messages?

  • No business information was discussed

  • User range in regard to staff level

  • Nearly immediate responses in certain cases

  • Joking environment


Findings

Findings

  • The everyone d-list is an equalizing force

  • Users gain knowledge through use of the list

  • Conflicts exist between user perceptions of the d-list and actual use of the d-list

  • Findings conflict with literature regarding email

  • The everyone d-list is perceived as a positive aspect of the workplace


Email as a positive what the research has shown

Email as a Positive? What the Research has shown…

  • “Peer generated email is often irrelevant and inappropriate.2

  • Managers should “restrict the use of email-to-all messages and reply-to-all messages.”3

  • “Users often perceive e-mail messages to be impersonal and irrelevant”2

    2Dawley, David; Anthony, William. “User Perceptions of E-mail at Work.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication (17) 2003: 170-200. Sage Publications. George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. 11/4/07 http://jbt.sagepub.com

    3Tassabehji , Rana; Vakola, Maria. “Business Email; The Killer Impact.” COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM (48:11) 2005.


Email as positive what i found

Email as Positive-What I found

  • “wit and wisdom”

  • “pass on a humorous quip”

  • “I think it contributes to a laid back atmosphere. The conviviality of the office.”

  • “I sent that email while I was driving home to show ‘look I’m paying attention to the world.’ It’s my opportunity to be a good guy. I try to lighten the mood.”


Everyone d list as positive advantage in comparison with other workplaces

Everyone D-list as Positive Advantage in comparison with other workplaces

  • “Even the emails that are goofy when you are talking about our association culture it enforces a relaxed atmosphere. At my husband’s work you just don’t send emails to everyone.”

  • “At my old job you couldn’t send ‘does anyone know about this?’ emails. it was frustrating.”


Everyone d list as social circuit

Everyone d-list as social circuit

  • “I read all the emails…I read everything. God forbid I miss something.”

  • “Yeah, I do. So I can see what the current issues other people are dealing with are. Current events.”


Conclusions

Conclusions

While research has shown “e-mail can reduce the number of meetings and telephone conversations, invoke employee confidence in communicating effectively, serve as a good time-management tool, and engender employee efficiency,”2 the research I conducted has also demonstrated that the existence of an open forum for written communication via email can have a positive impact on how employees perceive of their workplace.


So what

So what?

  • Writing can clearly affect the social environment of an organization

  • Awareness of the effect of writing on the environment in the office

  • In this setting many of the findings from previous research regarding email use are not valid


What next

What next?

  • Are these findings confirmed in other workplaces? Is this an anomaly?

  • Could managers use the findings of this study to try to affect change in the culture of their workplaces?

  • Does email use vary depending on organization type?

  • Further Questions?


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