Electronic Communication and Its Negative Impacts

Electronic devices for an internal organizational communication seem to be the ideal choice for managements today in order to increase productivity and efficiency; and to decrease time of process and belated achievement. This phenomenon not only influences management process but also influences the accounting systems strategies and the behavioural accounting approaches. Accordingly, media richness theory is referenced by companies largely. This also becomes the common reason for adoption of electronic communication in managements and information systems. On the other hand, debates and researches around this issue are running so sharp. On one side, media richness is the only solution for increase management performance. Another side argues that the adoption of media richness abruptly and totally in management can result in new and more problems. In the back screen, there are several challenges that management has to deal with. Those problems are ambiguity of messages, limited ability of workers, equivocal leadership problem, demising of human aspects, emotional exhaustion, self-absorption problem and inter generation management. Further, management has to prepare and manage all resources (financial and non financial aspects) in order to minimize all those problems.

Keywords: media richness theory, electronic communication.


Electronic device usage is inevitable in the recent business environments. The effect of this development is very influential in the process of communication within the organization. Furthermore, both as a provider of accounting information and as a designer of information systems in organizations, accountant is certain to be impacted by the development of electronic technology. Because of that, accountants who directly or indirectly have managerial responsibilities have to observe the impact of the use of electronic communication. Accountants that also can be as manager and designer of information system within organizations also have to give more attention over this issue.


The media richness theory

The development of information technology brings multi benefits and also multi challenges for modern management. The sophisticated interfaces such as e-mail, voice mail, teleconference, mobile phone, short message service (sms) and others, provide faster mediation between sender and receiver. Widely, it also affects all aspect in this world. People start to leave their old style in posting the message. Tragically, it seems to be fact that post office has almost lost its traditional job. In the past, the post office was the heart for the communication in the world. Its posting channel was the blood stream for the information from entire world. Today, the electronic communication revolutions grant the electronic mail as replacement of the old style paper base mail. Rapidly, this “small child” takes over the passion of communication of people. The electronic mail becomes more and more popular in every sector such as education, government, business and others. Further, the letter “E” turn into a magical letter that symbolizes modern life styles. It also becomes a standard of less time process and simple bureaucracy. E-Banking, E-Commerce, and E-… become more common and seems to be the ultimate choices for better service. Especially e-mail, it is adopted as solution for cost effectiveness and other budget issues that usually have problem with paper base managements. For companies and other business entities, as said before, this phenomenon brings advantages in their business mechanism and management. They can decrease the waste time in almost process at their business utterly.

Accordingly, in academic world, researches and debates on the use of media in order to improve management quality run so violent. One side supports the idea to use electronic communications a hundred percent without reserve. It says that the faster and better management can be achieved only by using electronic assistants. Other argues that managements cannot abruptly change the working environment into totally electronic. This is because managements will face several obstacles when this is implemented without any consideration. One of many well known theories on the use of media is the media richness theory. In media richness theory, task performance will be improved when task needs are matched to a medium’s ability to convey information (Daft & Langel, 1986). Media richness theory is also one of the most widely applied theories of media use (Dennis, Valacich, Speier & Morris, 1998), yet Webster, Trevino and Stein (1996) state that this theory is controversial.

This paper will not theoretically analyze deeply the media richness idea but it will reveal the consequences and phenomenon around the application of media richness. Those are particularly that happen at managerial atmosphere and information systems designing in organizations. This will include social aspects, human aspects, leadership, emotional and forming of cadre process that is so essential to maintain inter generation managements eternally. These all will answer the puzzle whether organizations are generating new problems or not by implementing media richness in their employee managements.

As explained before, the implementation of electronic communication brings some effects in companies’ life generally. It can be positive or negative. For companies, this implementation benefits financial budget in order to achieve efficiency of cost. The old style administration that commonly is figured as full of paper office spends much money in administration tool and equipment such as paper and others. Besides the high price of paper, the problem also related with the storage matter and also security problem. In contrast, electronic device can keep the information more simple. Moreover, in the way of communication, electronic gives the faster and more reliable technique (El-Shinnawy & Markus, 1998). It seems to be no reason for communication problem and lost time for managements. Another point is even though the short-term cost that is spent for implementation of electronic communication is bit high; the long-term cost can be decreased easily and also can be allocated for other investment reason.

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Those all above are look like a new paradise for company. Are that true? Or those are only the beginning of new problem. For a company, the financial aspect is not the only aspect that management has to deal with. Another aspect that has very significant role is a non financial aspect. The negative impacts of electronic communication in a non financial aspect will be analysed for further discussion below.

Ambiguity of messages

Clear and faster messages are the big problem that management usually deal with. Electronic communication, especially email, can provide faster message delivery than manual one. The problem, then, is whether email can also guarantee the clearer messages. Email is one type of electronic communication that is also one way communication. Frequently, workers have to interpret the received messages. Every message can be has several interpretation and it will make the workers do more job to cope with this problem. Workers need more time to replay the message only for some clarification on the message. This is not only can result in multiple tasks on messages but also can be contrary with the origin purpose of the use of electronic communication, the efficiency of time. Further, confused workers can get stress on this process. For the senders, they can feel uncertainty whether the receivers can interpret the message or not. On the other side, the receivers also can get misunderstanding over the process. Both sides, finally, can experience stress because they too worry about the miscommunications (Ibid).

Limited ability

An adoption of the electronic communication abruptly to entire management only benefits high level management. Professional workers, in several studies, seem to be happy to engage with this kind of communication style (Ibid). In contrast, for the middle and low management, this process can be a challenge or even a threat. The low level managements that are categorized as blue collar workers commonly prefer to use more simple communication channel. Moreover, those workers that generally have no skill to operate this sophisticated device can resist the new communication style. The main factor of this phenomenon is the mentality barrier. For them, the old style communication that has developed and applied for long time is not so easy to let. Inexperienced email users will generally not be able to immediately engage in rich communication (Carlson & Zmud, 1999). It is natural for workers to have problem when they are directed to leave their comfort zone. It also means they have to use and develop new habit in the way they communicate each other. The workers need to improve they skill in use of new tool and also they have to develop new manner that they never use before. It needs long time for application of electronic communication in low level management to succeed. Eventually, for high level management and accountant as a information system designer, what they have to prepare is not only about money and time aspects but further they also have to prepare everything to deal with workers rejection, especially mentality aspects.

Equivocal Leadership problem

In virtual world, it is difficult to determine position of each element of management. There is no room for bosses to demonstrate their power. All people in this virtual management can explore their arguments and statements without any authority barrier. If it is no member limitation, from lowest to highest managements, their idea can arise sporadically. In this situation also, leadership role also cannot go as a traditional manner. Furthermore, it is not only can result in ambiguity of message as said above but also ambiguity of leadership. Naturally, people will take and follow arguments that are similar with their opinion. High level managements cannot easily push their arguments to their subordinates. In this case leaders still have to show their power that could be in an identification form or a symbol. If it is not, organization can loss its orientation in this virtual world. Wiesenfeld, Raghuram, & Garud (1999) suggest that identification is an “organizational glue” that can tie employees together in a virtual setting. After all, it is clear that, commonly, management and internal accountant can face leadership problem in virtual world when it is embracing electronic communication.

Demising of Human Aspects

Traditionally, face to face meeting in organization is the most reliable way to manage and direct employee. This method also has various social or aspects in it. One of several important aspects is human aspects. In face to face method, attributes of emotional aspect such as body language, intonation of voice, style of speech and others have key roles in keeping the emotional environment entire organization. In contrast, the virtual communication, especially email, can never provide an emotional wave in its content. The delivered message is only consist of typed sentences and is needed to interpret further. In this case, it is clear that electronic communication filters out or even cuts necessary aspect in human communication (Lee, 1994). From this point of view, managing employees can be more difficult than before.

Emotional Exhaustion

From discussion above, it is clear that human factor is essential. Accordingly, electronic communication that reduces personal interaction physically can also bring an emotional exhaustion problem among employees. This problem arises because of social interaction’s lack. Employees have to face multi dimensions challenge in order to follow the trend of electronic communication. They have to pay highly attention in improving their ability to deal with new sophisticated tool. They also are pushed to interpret every message in very short time because the purpose of electronic communication is to reduce time of delivery. Moreover, the employees cannot express any emotional problem in the virtual world. Deeply discussion about anything is also time and physically limited. In this stage each element of management seems to be enjoying they work and own problem. No chance for sharing and empathy among employees. Employees’ emotional resources become depleted, and they no longer feel able to give of themselves at a psychological level (Gaines & Jermier, 1983). This phenomenon, in its culmination, can result in emotional exhaustion. As the result, management also has to deal with big problem; besides other problems in organization.

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Self Absorption Problem

In the next level, managements can be challenged by more horrible problem than emotional exhaustion; it is a self absorption problem. If organization failed to recognize and coop with emotional exhaustion problems of its employees, so the next level will be very hard. A self absorption problem is caused by deeply mentality pressure that is experienced by workers for long time. Thinking everything solely, interpreting the message immediately and solving problems nearly one self are jobs that might be figured out by employees in electronic communication worlds. They are also inexperience in this new challenge and nervous every time they get tasks in virtual worlds. They are sick logically and mentally. For long time, all those problems let to self absorption (Sproull & Kiesler, 1986) and organizational shock.

Inter Generation Management Problem

The continuity of organizational life is the most important thing in every management policy and process. In this matter, it is ideal for management to take decision that can result in organizational continuity. It also has to be happened in organizational decision to embrace electronic communication. For instant, one of the most important things in maintaining the organizational life is inter generation management process or forming of cadre process. It is wise for organization to prepare and form its future leaders. The leader, in this issue, is not only the chief executive officer but also more than that, a wholly human resource in organization. Every person is a leader, isn’t it? Accordingly, the current managers should prepare the person that will replace them in the future for similar job. Further, it is not only for future purpose but it can be for current process. For example, managers have to teach and train new workers in order to guarantee every task in organization is performed well. The same process also happens when managers educate their new assistant and so on. The manager has to actively develop member’s knowledge and skills (Hackman & Wageman, 2005). The most well known theory in this process is coaching theory. In this theory, face to face contact is very important. Coaching is a highly personalized form of management development (Phillips, 1996). Coca-cola is one of several companies that apply coaching activity in its management (Veale & Wachtel, 1996). Organization also has to determine what prevent managers and leaders from becoming exemplary facilitators of learning (Ellinger & Bostrom, 1999). For coaching process, physical activity or face to cafe process is so necessary. In contrast, electronic communication decreases or even cuts all physical contacts.

Eventually, electronic communication might be a big challenge for this process. Further, it might be a threat for the future of organization.


It is clear that the embracing of electronic communication (for example: email) can result in new problem in organization. The benefit of the electronic communication seems to be attractive in order to satisfy the needs of organization. Those needs are to be more competitive and profitable. In this case electronic communication is expected to give its “ability” to decrease time of delivery for all tasks and processes in organization. In this stage, electronic communication devices are not disappointing the managers. However, there are several aspects in organization that have to be calculated. It is not only material-financial aspect but also immaterial-non financial aspect. The two last aspects before, commonly, become more important for organization in order to achieve its objectives. At these factors, managements have to be aware that human aspect that is decreased and pressured abruptly and significantly can cause big problems in organization. Those problems can be ambiguity of messages, limited ability of workers, equivocal leadership problem, demising of human aspects, emotional exhaustion, self-absorption problem and inter generation management. Further, accountants and managers have to prepare and manage all resources (financial and non financial aspects) in order to minimize all those problems and manage its employee better. Or organizations have to face “a new monster” on its.

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