Is Whatsapp Better Than Face to Face?
Once upon a time when you visited an office, you were greeted by an old-fashioned mature lady receptionist sitting behind a big wooden desk and were asked to sit at their leather couches. That might be the case for most Government or Public Offices, but there has been tremendous change in the private sector. Now you will find a younger, trendier receptionist sitting behind a metallic, semi-MDF desk and told to sit on metallic or stylish plastic chairs. If the furniture and set up of an office can change then why not other things, such as communication?
Formal communication in a company was via Memos, registers, notes or meetings. You couldn’t approach the Boss without an appointment with the PA, while in big corporations that may stay, things have become very informal. Ever since the invention of the Smart Phone and the chat app called WhatsApp a lot of barriers have broken down. I still remember calling the Boss’s extension was such a big deal, it meant you are in trouble or have bad news to give. Then getting their mobile number was a privilege. Now, all goes, you can send jokes, quotes or messages to your Boss and the top management team. It is part of the informal communication.
But does work get done? Amazingly in Kenya it does. Most developed countries still rely on email communication and many meetings. However in Kenya mobile usage is still the highest and meetings are nearly only done because the companies have to fulfill the ISO quotas. Having a company Whatsapp group does help because you are able to transmit announcements easily and nobody ignores their phone so you are guaranteed feedback. The only drawback is when the casualness kicks in, and the English language goes out the window. There is nothing more irritating than slang words or short codes in an office chat. Calling each other pet names is also immature. Then things get personal and people start building camps within the office. This starts the breakdown of the office morale. That’s why you must create a WhatsApp group per event, department or for a clear goal. For example a WhatsApp group between the tea ladies versus the Accounts department becomes seeds for office gossip.
Gossip can destroy lives but can also destroy the objective, the mission and vision of the company. Don’t let the chat system ruin the real message you are trying to get across or achieve. It is also not the most secure form of office communication. Your competitor or anybody interested in getting secrets can easily hack into your WhatsApp chats and find out all that doesn’t need to get out. WhatsApp is effective to reach out to your customers, not for gossip or office details but announcements.
There is also a huge social pressure in a group chat within the office. If you leave the group, eyebrows are raised, if you don’t participate or react to the messages, then even there is a problem. Most people are not so chatty in words and find it very difficult to express themselves or sometimes that it’s a waste of time, so if they did answer with one letter or one word replies, people stop liking them. When someone is too chatty then there can be an impression that he or she has nothing else to do. By the way it doesn’t take too long before a fight erupts and names are called on such a chat too, so watch out.
There is nothing like a one on one meeting, you can see each other’s eyes, body language and connect with what is on the table- an important matter, problem, good news or an announcement too.