Chapter 6: E-Conflict


"E-mail [is] the killer app of the Wired Age. Executives see it as an invaluable means of communicating with far-flung offices and employees . But the pain of dealing with e-mail has caused many to ask whether the killer app will kill them, too." [1]

Consider these news items:

  • On the World Wide Web: An "Internet Shootout" is under way, with Israeli and/or Jewish hacker attacks aimed at Palestine's, Hezbollah's, and other Arab Web sites. Arabs counterattack by targeting the Web sites of the Israeli Army, foreign ministry, prime minister, and Knesset.

  • On eBay: A Lebanese-American woman offers "Palestinian-thrown rocks," with bids starting at $20 for one rock.

  • In a Newsweek article, a young woman describes her first e-mail argument, a disagreement with one of her relatives, in which "our barbs zapped through cyberspace ." She states that she didn't know how common e-mail fighting is ”until she mentioned it to friends , who "readily confessed their own online tiffs." [2]

So it goes. Old-fashioned, dysfunctional conflict has a way of metastasizing and invading unprotected targets, whatever spaces ”social, political, or technological ”they may occupy. And, with the unprecedented expansion of electronic communication, the number of conflict targets has grown exponentially.

Two- thirds of the 130 million adult workers in the United States send 3 billion e-mail messages daily, equating to twenty-one messages per electronic mailbox every day. During 2000, the Internet delivered more than 400 billion messages in the United States alone. To put that into perspective, the U.S. Postal Service delivered only 100 billion pieces of mail in the same period! [3]

In 2001, the average employee spent between two and two-and-a-half hours per day reading and sending e-mail messages. [4] According to e-mail researcher and consultant David Ferris, the volume of e-mail is expected to grow between 60 and 80 percent in 2002. [5] All of which makes e-communication a huge potential breeding ground for conflict. It is imperative that this ground be secured before the gathering mushroom clouds work their way to the electronic transmissions in your organization.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with e-mail. However, because of the large number of e-mail messages that executives receive ”many executives receive from fifty to one hundred messages a day ”the speed and ease of response, and the ability to circulate messages with a click, there is great potential for mischief. This potential has been increased by the nearly universal e-mail literacy . Although an organization can become completely wired in a matter of weeks, the ability of its employees to effectively communicate in the new medium may take much longer to develop.

E-mail is not only about speed, efficiency, and information but also about unscreened emotions, opinions not tempered by body language, and thoughts ”some hostile and provocative ”unrefined by reflection.

[1] Alex Salkever, "E-Mail: Killer App ”or Just a Killer?" Business Week online, March 1, 2002.

[2] Candy Schulman, "E-Mail: The Future of the Family Feud?" Newsweek , December 18, 2000, p. 14.

[3] Gerald Goldhaber, "E-Mail: Tool or Torment?" Communication World , vol. 18., no. 5, August 1, 2001, p. 25.

[4] Gerald Goldhaber, "E-Mail: Tool or Torment?" Communication World , vol. 18., no. 5, August 1, 2001, p. 25.

[5] Salkever, op. cit.

When Goliaths Clash. Managing Executive Conflict to Build a More Dynamic Organization
When Goliaths Clash: Managing Executive Conflict to Build a More Dynamic Organization
ISBN: 0615198686
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 99

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