The basics of management haven’t changed with time, notes Harvard Business Review; it remains more art than science. Styles and subject matter may evolve, but basic management practice endures. Managing is action-oriented, fast-paced and rife with pressure. Managers are interrupted often and typically don’t have the luxury of long periods of concentration.
Indeed, managers have always led hectic lives. It seems someone needs something from them at every moment of the day. With the advent of the Internet, managers’ time has become even more scarce as technology blurs the lines between the professional and the private, as HowStuffWorks notes.
But technology also has simplified life for managers in many ways. Information is much easier to access from the cloud than from file drawers back at the office, and email allows instant communication to every corner of the globe. Is technology changing management for the better? To answer that question, it’s necessary to examine the pros and cons.
Con: Less time for human contact
Staring at a screen and typing means less time for face-to-face interaction with other people, as Harvard Business Review notes. Managers — who historically have done their jobs primarily by walking around and talking to people — only have so many hours in each day. Text-based methods of communication like email provide ample room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding, which certainly can impede managers from doing their jobs effectively.
A perpetually clogged email inbox is bound to serve as a stumbling block to real human interaction — especially when the expectation is that managers respond to emails and texts instantaneously.
Pro: Ease of keeping in touch with external networks
A manager’s life can be a lonely one, especially when it seems no one in the company truly understands the challenges. Managers often tend to get pressure from both sides: from their employees below them and from their bosses or board members above them. Often, limited resources and marching orders from above leave them feeling that their hands are tied.
Modern technologies including email, along with social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, allow managers to stay in touch with extended networks, including people in similar management roles in other locations. The ability to blow off steam or get quick advice from peers can help managers keep their situations in perspective and relieve stress.
Con: More focus on the short term, less on the long term
The frantic pace of life on the Internet tends to make everyone focus on the short term. A manager’s day has always involved someone needing something at every moment, but email and text messages have increased the number of “someones” making demands at all hours. With limited time available and increasing pressure to focus on short-term needs, many managers are left without time or motivation to focus on long-term strategies and plans of action — often to the detriment of employees and organizations.
Pro and Con: Easier monitoring of employees
In today’s world, most employees understand that they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy at work. Their Internet usage may be tracked in a number of ways, including the sites they visit, the projects they work on and even the keystrokes they make. Company-issued cell phones can monitor employees’ whereabouts at every moment of the day, even during their time off.
All that monitoring can certainly shed light on employees’ productivity, but that can be both a blessing and a curse for managers whose time is already at a premium. Constant monitoring also can damage relationships and mutual trust that can take many years to build.
How can managers use technology effectively?
Whether it’s a net pro or con, technology is here to stay. But skilled managers are using technology in ways that contribute to team cohesion and productivity, and they make sure that its use doesn’t erect unnecessary barriers to honest communication. To ensure that technology remains a useful tool rather than an impediment, managers should:
- Use email sparingly, and meet in person with team members as often as possible.
- Set up a news and information section on the company intranet that allows for communication of general news to the entire team in a timely manner.
- Save time by using an internal instant messaging program for quick questions and answers.
Technology: Changing management for the better?
Technology is simply a tool that managers can use in positive or negative ways. For maximum communication, productivity and team harmony, managers should keep a foot in two worlds: Use technology for quick communication and sharing general information, but continue to nurture the critical element of face-to-face interaction.
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