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An Opportunity to be the good guy Email Use in the Workplace


AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE GOOD GUY EMAIL USE IN THE WORKPLACE Kara Murray Study Overview Studied small (36 employees) nonprofit trade association in Northern Virginia ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: An Opportunity to be the good guy Email Use in the Workplace

An Opportunity to be the good guyEmail Use in
the Workplace
  • Kara Murray

Study Overview
  • Studied small (36 employees) nonprofit trade
    association in Northern Virginia
  • 26 women and 10 men
  • 11 employees age 20-30
  • 16 employees age 31-40
  • 9 employees age 41
  • 9 staff members have worked at the organization
    for over five years.
  • 6 staff members have worked at the organization
    for less than year.

Study Overview
  • How is email used in the workplace?
  • In this organization individuals can email entire
    staff at one time using the everyone distribution
  • Specific concern with the everyone distribution
    list (everyone d-list)

Study Questions
  • To what end are these messages sent?
  • What are staff attitudes towards this method of
  • What level of staff are the most frequent users?
  • Are there unspoken rules regarding the use of
    this method of communication and how are those
    rules learned?

Research Motivation
  • To determine if others shared my perceptions
  • To determine what value the emails sent to the
    everyone d-list have to the organization
  • To develop a basis for comparison to other
  • Based on findings possibly make changes to
    communication methods

Findings Overview
  • Everyone d-list is considered valuable to staff
    in many ways
  • Staff members recognize the unique nature of this
    method of communication
  • EVP and the rest of staff believe the use of this
    email system affects the culture of the

Definition of Culture
  • A pattern of beliefs and expectations shared by
    the organization's members, that produces norms
  • powerfully shape the behavior of individuals or
    groups in organizations.1
  • 1 Schwartz, Howard and Davis, Stanley. (1981),
    "Matching Corporate Culture and Business
    Strategy," Organizational Dynamics, 10 (Summer),

  • Over 400 Emails from June-December
  • 11 Interviews
  • 2 follow up interviews
  • 30 pages of field notes
  • Selective Open Coding as defined by Emerson,
    Fretz and Shaw in Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes
  • Developed email categories-categories
    corroborated in interviews

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07
  • From   Susan (midlevel staff)
  •  Sent   Tue 12/4/2007 854 AM
  •  To   EVERYONE (Internal)  
  •  Subject   In the Kitchen
  •  _____________________________________________
  • Good morning
  • Please have a Krispy Kreme donut compliments of
    Government Relations.

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07
  • From  Steve (lower level staff)  
  • Sent Tue 12/4/2007 1003 AM
  •  To   EVERYONE (Internal)
  •  Subject  Christmas Riddles
  • __________________________________________________
  • Christmas Riddles
  • What did the reindeer say before launching into
    his comedy routine?This will sleigh you.
  • What do lions sing at Christmas?Jungle bells!
  • When is a boat like a pile of snow? When it's
  • What do you call the fear of getting stuck in a
  • Santaclaustrophobia

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07
  • From Julia (Vice President of a department)
  • Sent Tuesday, December 04, 2007 133 PM
  • To EVERYONE (Internal)
  • Subject Wellness Information in the Kitchen
  • __________________________________________________
  • You may have noticed that we now have a
    "Wellness" area on the bulletin board in the
    kitchen.  Marissa has put together all kinds of
    interesting information on food, diet, exercise
    and recipes!    We'll also have a Wellness
    Reference Binder on the kitchen table which will
    contain fact sheets on all kinds of other related
  • So next time you're in the kitchen, take a look
    and a big thank you goes out to Marissa for
    putting the bulletin board together and Melissa
    for putting the fact sheet binder together!! 

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07
  • From Joseph (VP of a department)
  • Sent Tuesday, December 04, 2007 136 PM
  • To EVERYONE (Internal)
  • Subject RE Wellness Information in the Kitchen
  • you didnt notice? me neither. lets see. hmm.
    ok... try this. the wellness board is juuuuuust
    to the right of the three, large, empty krispy
    kreme donut boxes.

Everyone d-list Emails 12/4/07
  • From  Marissa (mid level staff)
  •  Sent   Tue 12/4/2007 146 PM
  •  To   EVERYONE (Internal)
  •  Cc   
  •  Subject RE Wellness Information in the
  • __________________________________________________
  • I hope to update this every month or so with new
    ideas, recipes and articles...if there is
    anything you would like to see on the board, or
    you come across anything interesting (like, say,
    "the Health Benefits of Fried Dough"), send me a
    note or clip the article so we can share it ) 
  • Thanks!

What can we tell from these messages?
  • No business information was discussed
  • User range in regard to staff level
  • Nearly immediate responses in certain cases
  • Joking environment

Study Structure
  • Everyone d-list is an equalizing force
  • Users gain knowledge through use
  • Conflicts exist between user perceptions of the
    d-list and actual use of the d-list
  • Findings conflict with literature regarding email
  • Everyone d-list is perceived as a positive aspect
    of the workplace

Email as a Positive? What the Research has shown
  • Peer generated email is often irrelevant and
  • Managers should restrict the use of email-to-all
    messages and reply-to-all messages.3
  • Users often perceive e-mail messages to be
    impersonal and irrelevant2
  • 2 Dawley, David Anthony, William. User
    Perceptions of E-mail at Work. Journal of
    Business and Technical Communication (17) 2003
    170-200. Sage Publications. George Mason
    University, Fairfax, VA. 11/4/07
  • 3 Tassabehji , Rana Vakola, Maria. Business
    Email The Killer Impact. COMMUNICATIONS OF
    THE ACM (4811) 2005.

Email as Positive-What I found
  • wit and wisdom
  • pass on a humorous quip
  • I think it contributes to a laid back
    atmosphere. The conviviality of the office.
  • I sent that email while I was driving home to
    show look Im paying attention to the world.
    Its my opportunity to be a good guy. I try to
    lighten the mood.

Everyone D-list as Positive Advantage in
comparison with other workplaces
  • Even the emails that are goofy when you are
    talking about our association culture it enforces
    a relaxed atmosphere. At my husbands work you
    just dont send emails to everyone.
  • At my old job you couldnt send does anyone
    know about this? emails. it was frustrating.

Everyone d-list as social circuit
  • I read all the emailsI read everything. God
    forbid I miss something.
  • Yeah, I do. So I can see what the current
    issues other people are dealing with are.
    Current events.

  • While research has shown e-mail can reduce the
    number of meetings and telephone conversations,
    invoke employee confidence in communicating
    effectively, serve as a good time-management
    tool, and engender employee efficiency, 2 the
    research I conducted has also demonstrated that
    the existence of an open forum for written
    communication via email can have a positive
    impact on how employees perceive of their

So what?
  • Writing can clearly affect the social environment
    of an organization
  • Awareness of the effect of writing on the
    environment in the office
  • In this setting many of the findings from
    previous research regarding email use are not

What next?
  • Are these findings confirmed in other workplaces?
    Is this an anomaly?
  • Could managers use the findings of this study to
    try to affect change in the culture of their
  • Does email use vary depending on organization
  • Further Questions?