Topic: Technology in the Workplace

Authors, Title and Publication

Lee, C. S., Watson-Manheim, M. B., & Chudoba, K. M. (2014). Investigating the relationship between perceived risks in communication and ICT-enabled communicative behaviors. Information & Management51(6), 688-699.


This study examined employees’ perceptions of communication problems in the workplace and their active communication behavioral responses when multiple information communication technologies (ICTs) are available for use. With the proliferation of ICTs, employees can collaborate and communicate across temporal, spatial, cultural, and organizational boundaries. In the meantime, increased perceptions of risk are associated with an ICT-mediated communication environment. The situational theory of publics suggests that employees would engage in deliberate communication behaviors to improve the situation after perceiving a problem that requires their response. This study explored how and why perceived problems or risks influence employee communication behavior in an environment where multiple ICTs are available for use. A one-day communication diary analysis and 47 follow-up semi-structured interviews were conducted in the Midwest (U.S.) division of a global IT consulting company.

Results showed that information gaining and action seeking behaviors occurred during situations with high-perceived risks. For example, for high perceived risks in the message, employees would use multiple ICTs sequentially to seek additional information, provide acknowledgement of message reception, or determine recipients’ availability (e.g., email followed up with a call). In response to high-perceived risks in the action component, action-seeking behavior was found such as the repetitive use of a single ICT (e.g., sending an email repeatedly) to pressure the receiver to take relevant required action or to complete organization tasks. Email is an important resource because it not only allows people to create a written record that helps them avoid blame and disputes, but it also enables copies to be sent to third parties. For situations with low perceived risks, employees prefer to use a single ICT since it required less effort compared to using multiple ICTs. Social interaction-seeking behaviors often occur during low perceived risk situations. Such non-task related interactions in organizations help forge informal bonds.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) help managers better understand technology mediated communication behaviors and the nature of ICT, and 2) diagnose a given situation and organize communication strategies to minimize identified risks. For example, in situations with high risk of failure at the information level, managers may provide employees with more access to technologies that can provide visual and contextual information. In addition, organizations also may want to provide relevant training to help employees develop their perceptual ability and adaptive communication competence.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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