June 2003

Match The Medium with the Message

In a recent independent survey of executives conducted for the staffing service Accountemps, 92% of respondents said managers often send an e-mail message rather than meet one-on-one. The survey included responses from 150 executives with the nation’s 1,000 largest companies. Asked how often they think managers use e-mail messages as a substitute for face-to-face communications, 67% percent were of the opinion that they do so “very often,” while 25% said “somewhat often,” and 7% said “not very often.”

Executives also were asked, “Aside from face-to-face communication, which of the following is the most effective way to communicate with employees?” Their responses were: e-mail 43%, telephone 31%, videoconferences 20%, and written memos 5%.

“Face-to-face meetings reduce the potential for miscommunication, allowing individuals to share ideas and feedback with the benefit of vocal inflections, facial expressions and body language,” cautions Max Messmer, chair of Accountemps. He advises managers to choose the medium appropriate for the message: “If the topic will involve debate or requires reaching a group consensus, arrange a meeting or conference call. For one-way communication or inquiries requiring little discussion, e-mail may be the most effective and timely vehicle.”

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