Hiding Behind Technology


by Samuel Greengard

Today I'm putting on my Mr. Manners hat for Etiquette Hour.

It's ironic that in an era of instantaneous everyone-is-wired global communication, reaching people is tougher than ever. I can't count the number of times I've wound up sending two or three or five e-mail or voicemail messages and the person still doesn't respond.

I'll refrain from calling them the "Good Old Days" because they weren't, but before e-mail, before voicemail, before pagers, you used to call someone and they either answered the phone or they didn't. The latter meant they weren't there.

Today's technology has flipped the equation upside down and sideways. Obviously, we're all inundated (thanks in part to the crush of e-mail and voicemail messages) and occasionally something falls through the cracks. But let's be honest: people hide behind technology and blame spam filters--the digital equivalent of "The dog ate my homework" for not responding.

You know who you are!

I'm not suggesting you answer your phone and e-mail messages at all hours of the day or night. I also think it's downright dumb to wear an electronic leash while you're supposed to be watching your child's basketball game or piano recital. Or tapping out e-mails every 10 minutes while you're vacationing in the Caribbean.

News flash: the world (and your business) will continue to function without you!

What I am suggesting is a dose of basic etiquette. Specifically, answer your messages within a reasonable time frame! If you don't know about something, admit you don't know but say you'll find out. If you can't accommodate someone, tell the sender that you'll take a pass this time around. If you're on board with a project, let the person know as soon as possible.

You wouldn't ignore someone who stepped into your office with something to say. So, why is it okay to ignore the same person digitally?

Worse, you're not only wasting their time, you're wasting your company's time and undermining productivity. Multiply this mess across the corporate world and the constant drip becomes a flood.

Will someone please get the message?