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Annie Hayes

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E-blunders cause embarrassment

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Communications dilemmas triggered by e-politics are causing concern for employees; says a new survey carried out for the Department of Trade and Industry.

The findings show that nearly a quarter of employees have suffered crossed-wires with colleagues or clients because their use of humour in an email has been misinterpreted. While as many as two in 10 admit to having made an email faux pas.

Over half of respondents still prefer the old-fashioned methods of face-to-face communication with 58% citing this as their most frequent means of interaction with colleagues with 42% preferring to conduct client liaisons in person.

Telephone communications, also featured highly in the most ‘popular’ list with one in three saying it was their most frequent means of communication.

While 9% of respondents said they had experienced ‘crossed-wires’ with others because they had sent an email to the wrong person.

In the war of the sexes, women came out on top as the most e-savvy with one in three men finding that their jokes had back-fired, compared to only 19% of women.

Dr Monica Seeley, CEO of Mesmo Consultancy, specialists in email management training, commented:

“Businesses thrive as a result of good communication and new technology such as email has revolutionised the way we work. However, whilst this brings business benefits it has also blurred the boundaries of language and etiquette, meaning careful consideration needs to be given to issues such as tone and turn of phrase used in emails.

“Implementing a code of email best practice and providing effective training on email use is one way to combat these problems and to realise the true benefits of email.”

The survey of 1000 employees highlights the importance of effective communication.

As of October all businesses will be required to have in place statutory minimum dismissal and disciplinary procedures. The three-stage process will act as a buffer to discourage disputes reaching Employment Tribunal level.

In 2003, Employment Tribunals dealt with 115,000 claims based on work disputes. Research shows, however, that in a third of cases, the individual and the manager hadn’t attempted to iron out the problem.

Employment Relations Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said:

“A more relaxed work culture and a rise in the use of modern technology such as email have resulted in great benefits for business. But get the tone or timing wrong and there could be tensions and a breakdown of communication at an individual level.

“The key to any problem is to try to nip it in the bud by dealing with it when it arises and stop things escalating – that’s why it is vital to have sound procedures in place to deal with disputes in the workplace.”

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Annie Hayes

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