CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

The Organizational Implication of the Electronic Transfer of Information: Electronic Mail and Leadership

Date of Award

1989

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Science

Department

Center for Computer-Based Learning

Advisor

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

John A. Scigliano

Committee Member

Mientje Levin

Committee Member

Thomas MacFarland

Committee Member

Jacques Levin

Abstract

Electronic mail is a new medium of communications. It changes the way things happen in communication. While man has 50,000 years of experience with spoken communications, 5,000 years with written communications, and 100 years with the telephone, electronic mail is relatively new. Research to date has focused on strategies for implementing, how it is used, patterns of use, resulting social changes, and effect on decision making. Other researchers conclude that electronic mail is a new and different way of communicating that often leads to results different from other mediums of communication.

This study focused on the effects that electronic mail might have on organizational effectiveness. Since organizational effectiveness can represent a range of things, the study uses leadership as a surrogate for organizational effectiveness. The study attempted to determine if there is a relationship between electronic mail and other communication in leadership situations and if electronic mail contributes to the effectiveness of communication between leader and subordinate.

A Delphi survey of 26 experienced electronic mail users in the Washington federal community was conducted. Respondents were selected by the information management staffs of the 21 largest federal agencies. The respondents were anonymous. They were contacted via a person in their organization.

Questions concerned the relation between electronic mail and the process of communication, leadership behavior and communication performance. Other questions covered the possibility that a new type of leader, one more proficient in writing, might emerge. This research also considered the effects of electronic mail on the organization and power structure.

The study concludes that the relationship between electronic mail and leadership is real and should be of concern to all managers. At least 75% of the respondents agreed with the following conclusions:

  1. electronic mail changes the process of communication between superior and subordinate
  2. the availability of electronic mail improves the leadership communication performance of my superiors
  3. other availability of electronic mail will enable the emergence of a ' more effective leader
  4. electronic mail is appropriate for informal leadership communication despite the record it creates

The results are discussed to provide insight to the incorporation of electronic mail and other advanced communication technologies into present and future organizations. Directions for future research are discussed.

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