Though online messages can provide a handy written record of conversations, Northcraft says that employees who interact in person also feel more engaged with one another and the work. Only 7 percent of communication that deals with feelings or attitudes is conveyed in the words used, with the rest of the meaning coming from tone or nonverbal cues, according to oft-cited communications research from noted University of California-Los Angeles psychologist Albert Mehrabian.
On the other hand, E-mail is an efficient way to convey detailed information. And because it can reduce some of the competitive tendencies among men in different branches of a firm, E-mail conversation can be more effective for them, according to research from University of Alabama social psychologist Rosanna Guadagno. When it comes to communication among women, Guadagno says, E-mail tends to "separate" them unless the give-and-take reveals some common interests or recipients are able to meet the messengers in person.
"Every once in a while you need to re-engage," says Northcraft. So the next time you think about firing off a quick "what's up?" message to your coworker down the hall, you might want to just walk there instead.
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