Messaging tone means a lot

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," published in the Academy of Management Journal, William Becker, assistant professor of management, entrepreneurship and leadership at Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business, finds 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 says.

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.

The bright side? Short, positive emails that required no response: such as 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.

"We all struggle with just how much we want to be connected and communicate, but organizations and supervisors especially need to be mindful of the time demands and tone of their messages."

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