#6 impact of email overload on psychological health in the workplace

Lack of trust

It appears that trust in email use has a considerable impact on the strategies that people use and how people experience working life.

When there is a lack of trust within an organisation, a ‘covering your back’ email norm can emerge that is reflected in overuse of ‘cc’ and ‘bcc’ emails, presenteeism (being busy with email instead of undertaking productive work) and the suspicion that leads to keeping audit trails of email conversation threads chains.

A report by the Kingston Business School revealed another email management strategy that reportedly causes mistrust and alienation is when managers and colleagues attempt to delegate and manage their staff using email. This is often viewed negatively because of the lack of mutual agreement or negotiation involved, resulting in perceptions of autocracy and disregard.

When email is used to ‘cover your back’ in these ways, it arguably not only reflects but exacerbates the lack of trust. Because email is so convenient there is a danger that workers can end up ‘hiding behind’ email; using it to avoid sensitive or controversial conversations, or even to avoid personalised face-to-face contact. Hiding behind email in this way creates a lack of respect and regard for the initiator and can diminish trust.

Steuart Snooks