Business Briefs: Email Tsunamis, Effective Internal Communication & Ambidextrous Leadership

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Welcome to Business Briefs! The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.

Office Email Tsunamis

We’ve all experienced the office email tsunami. Take a day off of checking, and RIP inbox. It’s what makes time away impossible, and even during the regular workweek, the mounting communications can be overwhelming. 

Researchers launched a study that involved a survey of 1,491 workers to try to figure out the factors that are particularly stress-inducing when it comes to email. Based on their survey, they concluded that it’s truly a matter of the email contents’ importance and its urgency. Too much urgent, important email makes us feel overwhelmed.

Here’s the catch. There’s also a disconnect between a receiver’s sense of urgency and importance, and an email’s actual urgency and importance. That is, if you send me an email, I may think it’s urgent and important, but you might not feel the same way. 

In the findings and analysis section they shared several interesting observations:

  1. When a colleague requests information to complete a task, the receiver doesn’t necessarily view that as important or urgent. 
  2. Unless that colleague is actually a boss. Then the email is seen as important. 
  3. Emails from colleagues are viewed as important or urgent only when the message itself says so: “This is urgent and important.”
  4. To further motivate a shared sense of importance/urgency, a sender should disclose the potential consequences of not acting.
  5. Finally “time sensitive” emails are often confused for important emails, and this may lead people to spend time on unimportant tasks.

The researchers advise that organizations that are concerned about employee stress should reduce emails seen as urgent/important, and establish clear standards for replies and prioritization. 

Read more here

Measurement of Perceived Importance and Urgency of Email: An Employees’ Perspective – Andre Lanctot & Linda Duxbury, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

Say It Twice

Plenty of studies indicate that corporate messages to employees should be communicated repetitively, and in a variety of formats. That’s what ensures the message comes across. 

That said, employees might have different preferences for corporate messages. A small study interviewed 20 office employees of different ages, with different spots on the hierarchy. 

Of the interviewees, 100% believed that communication was the key to workplace performance. 

For workers aged 20-39 years, 100% wanted communications in both both verbal and written formats when it comes to office information, procedural changes, and human resources policies. 

For those aged 40-59 years, there was a preference for communication in written format, with about half of respondents wanting communication in writing alone. 

And for those aged 60-69 years, the results were similar to those aged 40-59 years. The exception was for general office information; 100% of the workers in this group wanted office information communicated in both formats. 

Read more here

Creating an Effective Internal Communication Environment – Elizabeth Stevens, Granite State College

Ambidextrous Leadership

Ambidextrous leadership is probably not what it sounds like. It sounds like a leader who is both right-handed and left-handed. Nope. Instead, it’s defined in the literature as a leader who can create both explorative and exploitative behaviors in followers. 

That is, someone who builds an environment where people can experiment with new ideas, but also where efficiency and execution matter too. Ideas and results both matter. 

Researchers wondered how that sort of leadership impacts employees, so it surveyed 201 workers about their bosses and their work environment.  

Employees who rated their bosses highly in terms of both willingness to take risks, and valuing good outcomes, were employees who were more likely to see themselves as thriving, and who exhibited innovative behavior. 

Read more here

Ambidextrous Leadership and Innovative Work Behaviors – Mohammad Usman, Usman Ghani, Zai Islam, Habib Gul, Kahleed Mahmood, Journal of Public Affairs