Sending a Message That You Don’t Care

In the New York Times, Christine Pearson explains her decade of research on text messaging and how it’s damaging workplace relationships.

For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences.
I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. […]
Some younger employees may not be as concerned, as they’re already more likely to communicate electronically. Indeed, if everyone is texting at once, it may seem like “no harm, no foul.” […]
Through our devices, we find a way to disappear without leaving the room. By splitting ourselves off and reaching out electronically, we fill empty interpersonal space and ignite our senses. We can find relief and a fleeting sense of freedom. […]
In my research, I’ve learned that when employees behave in an uncivil way, their colleagues may take retribution. They might withhold information — for example, by “forgetting” to include the offender’s name on a final product. Or they might see to it that he or she ends up with a less desirable task next time. Or they might even refuse to work with the person again.

Sending a Message That You Don’t Care