“The manager you have called is temporary not available.”

Are managers allowed to shut down electronic devices?

Did you see the German commercial from Telekom yet? No? Then watch it now!  (Only takes you a minute, so no worries) When I firstly watched it I realized that all the examples for a digital world which are mentioned are just a listing that scares me to hell! Holy cr…, using my mobile as a remote control for my house? Meetings with teachers on skype? Alright, I could discuss the flood of technical inventions which penetrates us from all sides but something in the end caught my attention more and that was: You can always shut it down! Hopefully I always will! And that made me think…

Do you ever go offline, even for just a couple of minutes? Try to remember the last time you used your “off button” and actually logged yourself out. Was it at home during the weekend? On holidays? Or were you at the office or in school? Smartphones, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and all their digital friends are transforming our lives — not compulsorily in a better direction. They are also changing the nature of how and when (and where) work gets done.

Managers at all levels spend at least half of their time collecting, receiving, and forwarding business information. New technologies have accelerated the pace and broadness of this communication across vast distances. Studies which are going back half a century and more have made it clear that managing is characterized by high levels of variety, brevity, fragmentation, and most significantly, interruption. The first of these studies, carried out by the Swedish economist and founder of the business department at Uppsala University, Sune Carlsson and involving managing directors in Sweden in the late 1940s found out that managers were inundated with reports. The emphasize lies on 1940s! If they only knew that the worst was yet to come…

The electronic devices seem to help managers coping with these distractions. Smartphones, for instance, allow them to attend to the variety of demands on their time and leverage brief moments between meetings to complete minor tasks. But new technologies hide negative and harassing effects; managers need to understand the dangers of an overreliance on electronic communication. They are available everywhere and at any time!


Being a good manager is more than being on the line 24/7. It is also about performing so called “soft information”exchange. Soft information includes feelings, perceptions, opinions, values—which are often the key to project success or failure and therefore an integral part of managing. And how do you find those information? Most likely not via E-Mail or text messages. Use your words by talking and listening in person. A phone or a tablet is not a substitute for personal communication but a help to broaden the variety. Managing is not based on Information Technology rather than building up relationships and trust of your employees!

Managers who use their keyboard more than their mouth are likely to get lost in their virtual office. Recent research shows that we may have more connections today, but fewer relationships. Facebook and Google+ can complement but not replace the personal interactions at the heart of managing effectively. Managers who believe that they can control their department by e-mail may find themselves in trouble. They’ll gather the facts, but they may miss the meaning.

New technologies can also exacerbate the hectic pace and distraction inherent in managerial work. For example, a manager may send a text message at Sunday afternoon to announce a meeting at on Monday morning. Or a manager might follow up on a request for information sent by e-mail after waiting only an hour for a response. I made this experience with one of my closest friends who is an client manager in an big American company. I found myself sitting alone in a restaurant on Friday night having dinner because his colleague needed a quick response. So, he drove back to the office to get it done while I enjoyed Friday night`s dinner alone. As you may be able to imagine, I wasn’t too amused but it reflects the disadvantages of permanent availability on your private life. These more and more commonly accepted practices disrupt work–life balance, interrupt one’s ability to focus, and erode cognitive capabilities. The more often someone feels forced to check their e-mail or phone, the harder it is to focus on the actual task.


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