8The Venial Sins of Electronic Mail

8.1. Information overload

On one of my missions in a company, I met a manager who shared with me some of the difficulties he had in using e-mail. At my request, he started up his computer and e-mail. Though modern, his system took a long time to get started. When his inbox was finally displayed, I could see he had over 15,000 messages in it, out of which 2,000 were unread and a pop up window indicated approximately 1,600 notifications!

This example illustrates an extreme possible reaction when confronted with the growing problem of information overload. The number of received (and to be processed) messages has become one of the main factors of professional overload. E-mail is simultaneously a stress factor in itself and a channel for stress-transmission, because of the efforts that users are required to invest to reduce the amount of superfluous information to acceptable and manageable levels, and also because overload usually induces a feeling of urgency.

The more the user will “dig up” unmanageable numbers of messages, the stronger his feeling of urgency and the weaker his ability to work in a calm, reasonable and thoughtful manner, and the higher the stress. This will negatively impact his well being, levels of stress and productivity.

8.2. Anonymous disrespect

The sense of anonymity sometimes associated with virtual environments and stemming from impersonal man-machine interface is often conducive to a loss of the mutual respect usually ...

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