Recently NPR wrote an article “We Are Just Not Here Anymore” and it got me to thinking about the interpersonal relationships, or lack of, which occurs within the workplace. Although technology affords us the opportunity to accomplish more with our work role responsibilities, we seem to have forgotten how to build a rapport with our direct reports, peers, and superiors. Technology (i.e., email, text messages, or instant messages) is the preferred style of communication, however, although convenient, it inhibits individuals with effectively developing a bond with others. More importantly, we have forgotten why building interpersonal relationships are important. I attempt to address this issue with my clients as well as with my undergraduate students.
My area of expertise focuses on Leadership, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. To summarize, I focus on people psychology; understanding what contributes to the attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals within the workplace, as well as, their associated outcomes. Employees want to feel valued and that their concerns are “heard” and are considered important. Interpersonal communication that occurs only with technology (e.g., email, text messages, instant messages) within a workplace, especially between a leader and his/her direct report, can desensitize the interpersonal interaction that is transpiring…leaving the employee feeling as an unvalued member of the organization. When this level of desensitization continues over a period of time, employees will perceive their work to be less meaningful and may become less engaged in their work. Consequently, this reduces organizational productivity and profits. To address this issue, training on interpersonal interactions has become more prevalent over the past few years. The purpose of management courses or workshops pertaining to Leadership, Team Building, and Conflict Management, to name a few, is to assist students/participants with understanding the importance of engaging in soft skills and how these interpersonal skills affect those around them.
To hone in on this concept in my undergraduate courses, I employ one key rule. I mandate a policy where technology is prohibited…yes you read correctly; cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc are not allowed in my class room. I enforce this rule because it is a distraction for everyone in the class room and I am also seeking to develop the students’ ability to focus, develop discipline, and engage in communication and interactions with others without the veil of technology. I know my clients/students ability to effectively engage in interpersonal communication without hiding behind technology will be instrumental for their professional future. I share similar advice for young professionals seeking to propel their career and offer some additional insights. Here are two tips to keep in mind:
a) Get Out of Your Chair: If you are seeking assistance or information from someone whose office is only a few feet away, instead of sending an email, take the time to walk over to their office. Saying “hello”, introducing yourself, and getting to know the people you are working with is not only an asset in your professional role, but it can also afford you an opportunity to build friendships outside the workplace; and
b) Network: Attend events where you can meet other individuals within your organization or industry. Professionals are successful not only for their technical expertise; their success can also be attributed to their ability to build partnerships internal and external to the organizations they work for.
I challenge you to think about your professional relationships. Are you comfortable with engaging others without technology?
Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.