Dependence on e-mails damages trust in business

June 17th, 2010 - 3:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 17 (IANS) Firing off e-mails and cueing up video conferences speeds up work manifold, but only at the cost of damaging trust, says a new research.

Gregory Northcraft, business professor, University of Illinois says, high-tech communication cuts down the personal interaction needed to build trust, a key ingredient in getting workers to pull together and carry their share of the load.

“Technology has made us much more efficient, but much less effective. Something is being gained, but something is being lost. The something gained is time and the something lost is the quality of relationships,” said Northcraft.

He says relationships that build trust are critical when employees work together on projects. Collaborative projects suffer when workers doubt their colleague’s sincerity, creating a sense of injustice that leads them to shirk their own responsibilities.

The trust needed to build teamwork wanes when projects are managed by way of detached, high-tech means rather than personal interaction. The study put more than 200 undergraduate students through two hypothetical teamwork exercises, some face to face and others through e-mail and video conferences.

Face-to-face contact yielded the most trust and cooperation while e-mail netted the least, with video conferences somewhere in between.

The study shows that businesses need to re-examine their use of high-tech communication, which has grown over the last two decades because more companies are spread out geographically rather than under the same roof.

Findings suggest that businesses should balance use of e-mail with face-to-face meetings to recharge relationships and the trust they instil, said a UofI release.

“My parents live in North Carolina and even though I e-mail them a lot, that’s not good enough. I need to visit and recharge that relationship every once in a while so we still feel connected,” said Northcraft.

These findings appeared in Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

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