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Rethink your e-mail addiction

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in Office Technology,Workplace Communication

E-mail, that revolutionary productivity tool, has a dark side. It can create divisions between co-workers, hurt productivity and destroy focus, say critics.

Some even draw a comparison between e-mail and gambling—the “rush” you feel when you receive a good e-mail leads some people to compulsively check their inboxes.

To counterbalance the negatives, companies have been imposing “no e-mail Fridays” or “no e-mail weekends” to encourage more face-to-face interaction.

Anyone can take measures to keep e-mail addiction from getting out of hand, though:

Get up from your desk and walk over to someone you would normally e-mail.

Lars Dalgaard, founder and CEO of SuccessFactors, recently banned e-mail for a week. Holding himself to the rule, he walked to an employee’s office to discuss several issues—and got far more done than he would have with a long string of e-mails, he says.

Confront issues head-on. Don’t hide behind e-mail. Some people use the “bcc” (blind carbon copy) button to say things or share information they feel too uncomfortable to share in person. But avoiding confrontation can lead to deeper problems.

One of Dalgaard’s goals in banning e-mail was to encourage people to address issues in person, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Pretend every e-mail message you write will be broadly scrutinized.

A study in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people are more willing to lie when communicating via e-mail than with pen and paper—and feel more justified doing so.

Bottom line: E-mail is definitely a quick and easy way to communicate. But used without thought, it can become a negative force.

— Adapted from “E-Mail Backlash Builds,” Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal.

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