Effects of Email Demands on Managers’ Leadership Behaviors
The majority of research on the effects of email demands has found that excessive amount of time on email slows down work progress. However, research has failed to explore how leaders are affected by email demands.
Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology explored the relationship between leaders’ self-control level and how they balance email and work productivity. Self-control refers to the ability to block out distractions to focus on the activity at-hand.
For this study, the researchers gathered data from 48 managers using survey data. The first survey assessed their level of self-control and the importance of email in their jobs. Then, a week later, the respondents were given surveys twice a day for 10 consecutive workdays. The first daily survey contained questions about email demands and perceptions of their work goal progress to that point in the day. The second daily survey asked respondents about what leader behaviors they engaged in that day.
The researchers uncovered three main findings:
1. The greater the email demands, the lower the perceived work progress. This relationship was weaker for those who reported that email was more central to their work. In other words, email did not impact productivity because email is a part of their work anyway.
2. The higher the email demands, the lower the perception of goal progress, and the lower the transformational leadership behavior. There was no relationship between email demands, goal progress, and initiating structure. Transformational leadership entails motivating employees and helping them make their own goals. Initiating structure focuses on managing immediate work tasks.
3. For leaders with higher self-control, the relationship between goal progress and transformational behavior was weaker. This was also the case with initiating structure behavior. Leaders with high self-control did not have their transformational and initiating structure behaviors adversely affected by email demands.