Skip to main content

Humans Like To Talk At the Same Time

The abbreviated post-Labor Day work week has everyone thinking it's Wednesday, days of drenching rain has Washingtonians complaining they have Seasonal Affective Disorder in early September, and the president's big jobs speech to Congress tonight is going to mess up some football game.

Four-day work weeks are always weird because everything feels so off-kilter with strange bursts of activity at what feel like the wrong times, which, it turns out, is a lot like our communication pattern! A new study finds humans communicate in short bursts followed by bouts of silence. Seems obvious, until you discover this communication pattern holds true whether we're communicating on the internet, by e-mail, over the phone, or via the stock market. How cool is that? When it comes to talking, we're hot then we're cold, we're yes then we're no, we're in then we're out, we're up then we're down -- or some other non-Katy Perry-inspired description of human interaction. According to the researchers, who analyzed a mind-boggling 9 billion phone calls over the course of a year:
The effect of the bursts is that it slows down the information diffusion since the large periods of inactivity in the communication between two persons make it less likely that information is passed from one to the other. The study also highlights another important aspect of human communications: in group conversations, that is, although it is produced in bursts, these bursts happen at the same time among the members of the social group, which then accelerates information diffusion within these groups.

So what does it all mean for the workplace? Well, it's not your imagination if you've ever noticed how employees can be very quiet around the conference table and then suddenly everyone is talking all at once. Or there's a flurry of messages when it was quiet five minutes ago, and along the way information is shared. One at a time, please! I can't hear myself think! Geez!

Message: We talk, then we don't, and most likely all at the same time. It's like verbal PMS where our human cycles get in sync and then we're all in a bad mood together. Shh! Now we just need a five-day work week to get our minds back in sync so we can annoy each other even more.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…