Is Technology Costing You Credibility and Influence?

Its use vs. abuse as a tool in communication
by Stacey Hanke

You’re the boss, the leader, the master of business; yet your team is becoming increasingly frustrated with your over use of technology in the workplace. Employees cannot express how your behavior is challenging their willingness to act upon what you say. Influence is essential to running a successful organization and can be earned only through the development of trust, credibility and respect. It comes from a leader’s consistent actions, execution and communication. Technology is no exception. It’s time to consider your digital behaviors and how bad habits may be costing you influence in the workplace. 

Put Down the Phone — Your Time Is NOT More Valuable! The value of someone’s time is subjective. Sure, you may earn more than an employee, but when he dedicates countless work hours to a project, his value of the time invested grows exponentially. When that employee approaches you to discuss the ongoing status of the project, he already knows what his time is worth and expects to have your full, undivided attention. Few things are as disrespectful than a leader who interrupts a conversation with an employee to answer the phone — no matter how important the call may be. 

Tip: When conversing with employees one-on-one, in the hallway or a meeting, put down the phone. Make certain your ringer is silenced and your phone isn’t visible during conversations. Communicate your desire to actively listen by giving them your undivided attention. 

Hang Up the Email. Pick Up the Phone. Few things frustrate people like back-and-forth emails about something that could have been resolved in minutes on the phone. Employees are likely overwhelmed in their workday, battling through a barrage of noise and distractions. They rely on their leader to be clear and concise in all communication. Since emails lack tone, inflection and body language, they are easily misconstrued. What is said by the writer isn’t always accurately interpreted by the reader. 

Tip: Next time you find yourself writing paragraphs or playing email ping-pong, just pick up the phone and resolve the conversation directly. You’ll be surprised the time and confusion you’ll save. 

Stop Being a Texting Tycoon. I once worked with a leader who engaged with his employees daily, inquiring about their day and how he could help. His intentions were great and would have worked except for one little problem — he did it all via text messaging. 

Think about that. Employees are trying to talk with clients on the phone, answer colleague emails, attend meetings and all while their smartphones are blowing up with text messages from their leader. Because the messages came from their boss, they felt pressured to respond immediately, often interrupting important tasks and conversations requiring their utmost concentration. Worse still, when the boss would visit employees face to face, they questioned his motives for doing so. 

Text messages are great for confirming appointments, sharing phone numbers or quick data points. They should not be used as a method of engaging in meaningful communication. 

Tip: Relationships are developed when leaders invest themselves in conversation and connect directly with their employees. Get out of the office, walk over to your employee workspaces and engage face to face. If your employee works virtually, set up a teleconference so you can see each other’s facial expressions and make necessary eye connection. 

Stop Cyberstalking. Your employees are hard at work tackling the priorities you’ve outlined for them; they may not always be available at a moment’s notice. Frustrating behavior occurs when the leader is unsuccessful at reaching the employee in a first attempt and winds up leaving no digital stone unturned trying to connect. If you’ve called your employee and left a voicemail message, she will get it and return your call when the time is right. If you’ve emailed her, she will respond. If you’ve texted her, she will text back. You’re the boss and her priority; just give her the time necessary to respond. Calling to leave a message, following up with an email on the subject, then texting to say you’ve called and emailed is an abuse of technology sure to irritate those on the receiving end. 

Tip: Choose one method to contact employees when you need their immediate attention. If walking to their desk isn’t an option, either text, email or call. Don’t do all three. Remain consistent in your choice of tools so employees will come to trust your method of contacting them when an immediate need arises. 

Technology is an excellent resource for everyone and, when used appropriately, can support your efforts in establishing influence in the workplace. When technology is abused, it can cost you the influence and create an atmosphere of frustration and unwillingness among employees. Be mindful of how you use technology and the impact it may have on others.  

Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc. She is the author ofInfluence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to MondayandYes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action. Hanke and her team have delivered thousands of presentations and workshops for leaders of Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, Nationwide, FedEx, Kohl’s and AbbVie.

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