Emails exchanged by employees may help predict a company’s demise

June 23rd, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by ANI  

London, June 23 (ANI): The pattern of emails exchanged between employees may help predict whether an organisation is reaching crisis point, according to a study.

The study focussed on pattern of messages exchanged by employees at US energy giant Enron, which collapsed in December 2001.

After the company’s demise, federal investigators obtained records of emails sent by around 150 senior staff during the firm’s final 18 months.The logs, which record 517,000 emails sent to around 15,000 employees, provide a rare insight into how communication within an organisation changes during stressful times, reports New Scientist magazine.

Ben Collingsworth and Ronaldo Menezes at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne identified key events in Enron’s demise, such as the August 2001 resignation of CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

They then examined the number of emails sent, and the groups that exchanged the messages, in the period around these events, but they did not look at the emails’ content.

While they expected the communication networks to change during moments of crisis, it was found that the biggest changes actually happened around a month before.

For example, the number of active email cliques, defined as groups in which every member has had direct email contact with every other member, jumped from 100 to almost 800 around a month before the December 2001 collapse.

In fact, the messages were also increasingly exchanged within these groups and not shared with other employees.

The researchers believe that they might have identified a characteristic change that occurs as stress builds within a company-employees start talking directly to people they feel comfortable with, and stop sharing information more widely.

Other researchers think that such a shift in communication patterns could be used as an early warning sign of growing discontent within an organisation.

The findings of the study were presented at the International Workshop on Complex Networks, held last month in Catania, Italy. (ANI)

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