Digital communications—the new “voice”: can it be harassing and abusive?

Digital communications, no doubt, is the new “voice”, more often than not replacing face-to-face and phone conversations. As digital technology reduces workplace head count, we are all doing more with less.  Digital communications takes less time than more formal communications.  Further, with the use of text messaging via wireless phones, social media, and instant messaging, we are all sending short, clipped, abbreviated messages.

But, what happens when we do not see the person we are “talking” to?   As we rush to get things off our desk and move on to the next items, or we are ruthlessly multi-tasking, do we forget the recipient is human?  Do we think about how our “voice” sounds to the recipient?   Does our voice sound brash, threatening, or patronizing?  Does our voice cut the recipient off at the knees?  Does your voice belittle?  Or, does our voice inspire and motivate the recipient?

In today’s world organizational success depends on leaders’ ability to inspire people to the highest level of engagement.  The younger generations thrive on trust and collaboration.   If you have employees who constantly beat team members up via digital messages, collaboration and innovation is limited or non-existent.

Even worse, when an individual thinks it’s okay to bash fellow employees via email or instant messaging, it can become harassment and abuse.   Like any other kind of abuse and harassment, it creates a hostile work environment and teams fall apart.  Also like any other kind of abuse and harassment, it can lead to internal complaints, law suits, and EEOC complaints, which all can cost an organization millions on top of loss of production due to poor morale and workplace performance.

Leaders need to develop systems and programming that coach employees on the importance of professional verbal and digital communications.   Some pointers that should be included are:

  • Think before–Remind team members to “think” about how their digital voice will sound to the recipient, “before” they send the message.  You know the advice, “think before you act or speak.”  This applies to our digital voice as well.
  • Am I motivating or demotivating?
  • Am I giving the recipient a voice?
  • Am I being fair and respectful to the recipient?
  • Am I being fair and respectful to other colleagues?  Don’t beat up colleagues in your messages.
  • Does my message help the recipient succeed?
  • Does my “voice” help the team succeed?  Or, will my “voice” break down collaboration?
  • Is my voice coaching and mentoring in nature when providing feedback?
  • Does my voice create contention between other colleagues?

While conducting a workshop recently, a participant during a discussion on creating a compassionate and loving work environment, pointed out:

  • “When your words or actions do not raise a person to a higher level, your words or actions tier to hate.”

What a powerful statement.  There’s a fine line between love and hate.  Don’t let your words and actions tier to “hate”.   Let your “voice” tier to love and you will be a leader who helps his or her people maximize their potential.  You will be a leader who inspires your team to accomplish amazing things, and lead your organization to success.

  • Remember:  Love inspires, energizes, develops trust, and engagement.  Hate crushes the human spirit,  suppresses energy, creates distrust, and disengagement.

Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Hatley

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval without permission in writing from the author.



About Patricia Hatley

Patricia Hatley is a leadership author, researcher, speaker, trainer, consultant. We provide resources to empower people to empower others. “Inspired leadership elevates everything!” With a graduate degree in strategic leadership, primarily transformational leadership, Patricia Hatley is a leadership researcher with a concentration on 21st century intergenerational leadership, author, consultant, and teacher. Patricia is an intergenerational pro with over 30 years experience leading teams in corporate and non-profit environments. In December 2012, she retired from a 42 year career in the corporate environment to concentrate on this project. Her books include: (1) “4 Generations @ Work: Leading from Conflict to Collaboration,” (2011) based on research conducted within a Fortune 500 company and across all industries, is a study of generational preferences and values and how to effectively integrate all into any organization. (2) “Three Things All People Want,” (2014) which reveals how to inspire people to engagement by tapping into three basic human needs; and (3) “Digital Grenades: Explosive and Corrosive,” (2015) which deals with inspiring people to engagement and high performance when most interaction is across a digital platform via some kind of digital communications, i.e. email, social media, texting, etc . (4) “4 Generations @ Work: A Case for Empowerment,” (2015) a revised and expanded version of her first book 4 Generations @ Work. Patricia’s fourth book is a self-help book for anyone to use to develop a highly engaging workplace, for anyone. It provides information, based on recent and life-long experience:  How to develop an empowered culture, and why such a culture is critical to success today and even more so over the next decade;  “The Trust Factor” importance and basics;  “The Power of Ask,” what it is, how it works, and how crucial it is to success;  “Listening to Understand” basics;  “Integrity today” what it looks like and why it is different and crucial to success;  “Diversity and Inclusion,” what it looks like today, why, importance, and how tos;  Five generations: Intergenerational values and preferences, creating understanding, reducing conflict, engagement, etc.;  The Plurals--She introduces the next generation to flood the work force, the Plurals. Plurals are different than any generation yet, but require many of the same things in the workplace that their colleagues, the Gen Ys, do.
This entry was posted in 4 Generations in workplace, Abusive work place, Aging Work Force, Collaboration, Digital Age Leadership, Digital Communications, EEOC Complaints, Generation Ys, Generations Z, Harassment, HR Leadership, Leading for results in digital world and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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