In a world where we can so easily connect online without having true face to face contact, I question; is technology our enabler or our inhibitor?
My story starts on a frosty Monday morning in a quiet office space in Soho. Everybody is heavily focused on their laptop screens. The sounds of work are present in the room; the tapping of fingers on keyboards, the faint sound of the radio playing in the background, the kettle bubbling away. But the peaceful atmosphere is a contrast to the chaos on our computer screens. Thousands of emails needing urgent response, our slack message inboxes overflowing with conversation, incoming calls from Skype…
I look around and ask myself; how connected am I with my colleagues?
We’re now given the tools with technology that sometimes allow us to shy away from having face to face human connections with our colleagues. Is office culture drifting too far into technology?
Solomon Asch, a famous scientist, conducted a conformity experiment in 1951. He wanted to examine the extent in which social pressure from a majority could affect one person to conform.
The test included 5 actors and 1 innocent participant. The real participant was led to believe that the other people in the room were genuine. The actors agreed the wrong answer in advance, and in turn at the end of the interview each person had to say their answer out loud. The aim was to see if the innocent participant would conform to the majority view – despite the answer being quite clearly incorrect.
The results? 74% of the participants conformed to at least one of the tests. The power of conformity is enormous!
Asch interviewed the participants afterwards and they stated that they knew the answers they were giving were incorrect, but they went ahead and said them anyway because of a desire to fit in.
So, how can we stop conforming to what feels like the norm? Can we step away from having the desire to fit in and reach out (literally) to our colleagues to build on our human connections?
We’re often encouraged growing up that to elevate our careers we must follow this ALSO acronym:
I think this classic, hierarchical, ‘who shouts the loudest’ approach might play a part in why we sometimes opt for emailing over face to face communication. Let’s face it, who wants to be explicitly told what to do?
However, what I have come to learn is there is another way of thinking, working and approaching others. That is an ALSO acronym, too:
Listen to others
Open up to others
The first way tasks people with work in an approach that probably isn’t going to be necessarily appealing for building on our relationships and getting the job done. The second way asks people to work with you – in an open, empathetic and understanding way.
The older I get the more I settle into the knowledge that building strong, sustainable human connections with those around us is one of the most important factors in work (and life!). As Daniel Goleman says, ‘when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion’.
So next time you go to send an email or slack message to a colleague, give a thought as to whether that conversation might be better had in person – as it might well be the first building block into the creation of a wonderful strong human connection.