Thursday, May 15, 2008

Personal responsibilities when using present day communications tools

The world is filled up with comms devices of all sorts... from desktop computers to portable wireless phones and MP3 players to other appliances. We have never been globally so much interconnected as nowadays. It's also never been the case that interconnectivity by means of offline/online written word (email, IM, SMS), voice and image (3G cellphones, Skype) has been so cheap compared to other items of everyday life (travel, hamburger restaurants, etc). Wherever on the planet, people can connect to one another in a heartbeat. And it costs almost nothing to practically nothing to do that. Reminds me of the country & western song though... we got satellites computers... and we still can't communicate, us in the human race... or something like that...

Why am I discussing all this in a cloudy morning of the month of May, you may wonder. Short answer: I'm more than ever pissed! Seriously! I just can't get it. People, the majority of them, lack elementary manners and sense of ethical responsibility when using all their gadgets which they are so proud of. I'll only refer to one simple item of responsibility: responsiveness and acknowledgment. What is it?

Suppose you sent a message to someone. Email, IM, SMS, whatever. The fact that the recipient has accounts that make it possible to be reached by these modern comms protocols, it means he/she has a responsibility too. To respond to incoming messages. Well, it pisses me off to see how many descent people whom I deeply respect are full of shit when it comes to respond and acknowledge reception of their incoming messages. What's their problem? Don't they realize they have the responsibility to say something? I mean, I feel deeply ashamed if I don't respond to an incoming message and the thing is bugging me until I send an acknowledgment, whatever it may be. Because I can tell you. Receiving a message from someone you know well and pretending it never came is the worst lack of respect you can think of. And it tells you something about yourself... that you are full of it and you deserve to be treated proportionally.

The worst case I experienced in my life is a few years back, working for a company as COO. On a given moment I lost my internal power because of all sorts of org reshuffles. I remember during that time I used to call a C*O who used to report to me before and he would systematically ignore both my calls and emails. Bloody GSMs and modern telephones show with caller ID who's on the other side of the line and the sob would pass me systematically on his voice messaging (in other words, the trash basket). No way for him to respond to emails too. He was taking a sweet revenge in his trivial mind! Good news for the company though, he recently decided to leave them and join the competition. With his 'skills', I told the CEO, it's more an opportunity for improvement than a loss.

Folks, be human. It takes just a little to show courtesy and respect to your counterparts wherever they are when they try to reach you. Do at least the following:

  1. When emails come in, respond immediately, within the day. You don't have to write a book, if you can't take action, say you'll come back... and make a point to come back.
  2. Same for phone calls and voice mails and SMSs. It takes a few secs to acknowledge reception. Responding does not mean you come back with a solution... it means you heard the message and you are thinking about it.

This is all it takes.

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