★ E-mail = Lies?

[via Harvard Business Online]
There is some interesting research at Lehigh University about the level of deception used in communications mediums. The studies compare e-mail to pen(cil)-and-paper communication methods.

> A pair of recent studies suggest that e-mail is the most deceptive form of communications in the workplace–even more so than more traditional kinds of written communications, like pen-and-paper.

> More surprising is that people actually feel justified when lying using e-mail, the studies show.

> “There is a growing concern in the workplace over e-mail communications, and it comes down to trust,” says Liuba Belkin, co-author of the studies and an assistant professor of management at Lehigh University. “You’re not afforded the luxury of seeing non-verbal and behavioral cues over e-mail. And in an organizational context, that leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and, as we saw in our study, intentional deception.”

I have recently become an advocate of sticking to traditional communications, such as pencil and paper, and prefer more robust communications methods (telephone or face-to-face) when possible. This is a compelling argument for organizations to look at the use of e-mail more closely and possibly re-assign its purpose overall.

> “These findings are consistent with our other work that shows that e-mail communication decreases the amount of trust and cooperation we see in professional group-work, and increases the negativity in performance evaluations, all as opposed to pen-and-paper systems,” explains Kurtzberg. “People seem to feel more justified in acting in self-serving ways when typing as opposed to writing.”

I wonder what they would find within a more personal unit such as a family. Would the same type of deceit extend into personal lives? Or does the lack of ethical and respectful behavior crop up when less important people are involved in the transaction?