Is our fear of talking to each other increasing the incidence of workplace bullying?

Digital communication has revolutionised the way we communicate. A quick email to colleagues because they are out of the office and we know they are busy is super easy. Posting in a chat room to quickly garner ideas from others on a thought is convenient.

Yet what happens when digital communication goes askew? When it becomes a source of aggravation and bullying claims. Digital communication is great and here to stay, but it needs to be tempered with old fashioned communication – what I call talking. Though I am finding people are more afraid now than ever before of using the device we call a voice box.

I have been working with a group whose main source of communication is digital communication. They use Slack for chat, Trello for planning and monitoring, Box for sharing documents along with other electronic tools. However, a perusal of conversations records frustration, sniping, aggressive comments, calls to “calm down” and battle fatigue. It’s not a picture of positivity and healthy workspaces.

On discussing solutions, I asked a question “Is having a phone conversation or making a time to meet face to face and discuss the problem a possibility?” As human beings, we heavily rely on the subtle cues we pick up from visual and verbal conversations. We see the expression on someone’s face when they are hurt or confused. We hear those same tones in someone’s voice. We can adjust how we respond or interact accordingly. We can’t do this if we can’t see or hear the other person.

I am also sorry to say, but emoji’s don’t do the job either. They are open to interpretation. What I might think is a defusing smiley face is another person’s sarcastic smile!

What has become apparent to me above everything else is their fear at having an actual conversation and the questions about how to have a conversation that leads to deescalation.

Good communication done the right way is a key to preventing conflict escalation and workplace bullying. It might seem surprising, but we do need to teach our employees how to communicate effectively to create a safe and healthy work environment.

Is this your observation? Do you think people are more afraid to talk to each other?

Are you curious to learn more about stopping workplace bullying?

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