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Why we must completely rethink how to communicate at work

Cary Cooper, University of Manchester

Whether it’s office email, collaborative apps or the break room noticeboard, internal workplace communications have the potential to go very wrong, very quickly.

Google engineer James Damore recently found this out to his cost after colleagues leaked a Google Doc he shared about the company’s approach to diversity, leading to his eventual dismissal.

Of course, misjudged workplace missives are hardly new. Even your out-of-office message can go viral if you’re not careful.

But now that Google – the progressive, convention-busting organisation we rely on to organise the world’s information – finds itself at the centre of its own workplace communications scandal, it is a perfect time to rethink the whole thing.

Culture wars.
Dmitry Alekseenko/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Too much information?

Recent attempts to address this have focused on when we communicate at work, rather than how. It has been eight months since France passed the El Khomri “right to disconnect” law, making it illegal for employers to email staff out of office hours. The idea was to tackle work-related stress and bring an end to the “electronic leash” as one French lawmaker put it.

Six years before, Volkswagen agreed to stop emailing its employees outside of office hours. In 2014, Daimler, another German car manufacturer, introduced a voluntary policy that enabled staff to auto-delete emails they receive while on vacation. The sender instead received a variation of this response:

I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office.

The right to disconnect has only been law in France since January 2017, so it’s too soon to judge its impact. But Volkswagen workers spokesman Jörg Köther claimed in 2014 that his company’s measure had been well-received. He attributed its success to the policy’s “no bypass” mechanism, essential to remove the temptation for workers to log back in.

Vorsrprung durch email restrictions.
George/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Daimler reported success with staff too. Spokesman Oliver Wihofszki told the BBC:

The response is basically 99% positive, because everybody says: ‘That’s a real nice thing, I would love to have that too.’

Competitive communicating

Most of us are guilty of checking in with work too often. Last year HR Magazine’s Reclaim Your Time survey found that 34% of employees check their email immediately after waking up and 38% do it every night just before they go to bed. A study by a UK cyber security consultancy found that two in ten office workers responded to work emails even after going to bed.

Some organisations encourage this toxic fixation. Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports admitted texting employees on a Sunday just to see how quickly they responded.

Compelling employees to switch off is a good start. But there’s a long way to go.

A mindful approach

Gianluca Leone, director of, a management company for flat-sharers in London, told one of my colleagues that his team have tried to find a middle-ground between disabling email and allowing free reign: “We have a system for monitoring our customer service email address and everyone knows who’s picking up those emails at any given time… During peak season we have support staff to serve clients in other time zones. Our staff know when we expect them to be offline and they to appreciate the clarity.”

The difference between “we don’t expect you to check your email” and “we expect you not to check your email”, is crucial.

Of course, completely disallowing out-of-hours emails won’t work for all businesses. We need flexibility. Discouraging overuse is fine, but let’s take a more mindful approach to internal communications in general.

For a start, organisations should discourage the arbitrary copying of people into emails. This habit erodes trust and controversial messages spread like wildfire.

End this madness!
thecrazyfilmgirl/Flickr, CC BY

Google’s Damore is said to have copied in 40,000 colleagues to his memo which criticised the company’s diversity policy. They then swarmed to Blind – an app that facilitates anonymous workplace gossip – to call for his dismissal. What if he had simply spoken to Google’s new diversity chief in person? It could have been a conversation instead of a “manifesto” that caused a global hand-wringing over corporate approaches to equality.

We should get up and speak to our colleagues whenever we can. The benefits are well documented. So I’d celebrate any initiative to discourage emailing all colleagues, whether remote or at the next desk.

The future of internal comms

Other channels bear consideration too. Email is losing popularity among younger people. Some 37% of startups no longer view it as their main comms channel, favouring collaborative platforms like Slack and Google Docs. These tools are ripe for overuse, designed to facilitate group-wide communication from a smartphone. What could go wrong?

Some businesses have already spotted the risks. One London fashion startup has an unusual way of discouraging extra-curricular Slack usage, assigning those guilty of it to the morning coffee run as punishment.

Overuse of workplace communication is linked to a reduction in mental well-being, so clear policies like those developed by VW and in France are essential. It means employees aren’t left guessing about what’s expected of them.

When companies have experimented with unlimited paid vacation, letting employees decide how much time off they took, staff end up working more, not less. The same is true of communications. Without restrictions, employees risk drowning in information.

The ConversationFlexibility and a culture of openness are valuable to any organisation. But those organisations that embrace openness have a duty to protect their people from the risks, both to their well-being and to their career, of being able to communicate so easily with so many.

Cary Cooper, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, University of Manchester

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dealing With Challenges In The Fintech Sector-Is Fintech Over-Hyped?

By now, we all know that there is a revolution in finance and technology.  It’s no secret that the Fintech industry is booming and the banking sectors all over the world are changing. Personally, i have to say that so far, i consider myself a happy consumer. The idea of making payments right from my smartphone, (thanks to the mobile payment platforms) has indeed made my life easier.

The talk about Fintech is not just about the bitcoins, the latest ‘hot’ startups in this sector or even the billion dollars invested in this space. It’s much more than that. (Read on)

Not long ago, i came across an article describing how ‘Fintech as a label is becoming increasingly problematic’. The article is about clearing the confusion about what ‘Fintech’ really is. It discusses the importance of understanding and interpretation of the term ‘Fintech’. It doesn’t just mean startups in the financial services sector. It also comes in other varieties around the world, such as alternative forms of finances/ lending. (Read on here  and here)

Then there are concerns about Fintech Companies being overvalued. According to a report by Investment bank GP Bullhound, there are now 39 Fintech companies valued at over a billion dollars. (Who are the global Fintech leaders? Read on)

With that in mind, another interesting question i believe is worth asking is- Whether or not Fintech is overhyped? And how does one know? I came across an informative article on the LSE’s (London School of Economic and Polical Science) blog which describes 7 ways to identify Fintech technologies that do not deserve the hype.  With consumer orientation forming the basis of a large number of  Fintech firms,  it makes sense to ask ‘What works for consumers and what doesn’t?’ (Read on)

At A Glance- Issues And Effects of Communication Problems

“I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings.” 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Communication plays a very important part in our lives and the ability to  to communicate effectively is the most important skill any person can posses.

However, Communication issues may develop due to various circumstances. When there is a communication problem, individuals can quickly misunderstand or misinterpret others which in turn may lead to tension, arguments or conflicts.

I came across this video on YouTube which highlights a lot of aspects in which communication escalates conflicts.

Source: YouTube


“Having not said anything the first time, it was somehow even more difficult to broach the subject the second time around.” 
― Douglas AdamsSo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish