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The Effect of Technology on Management Practices

Sarah Qronfleh

University of South Florida


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Technology has been a force of change in modern life and its impact can be felt not only

at home but also in the workplace. Technology has created a global economy and within that

framework, large swaths of industries now rely on some, in most cases many, forms of

hardware and software to operate effectively. The introduction of computers, printers, and

other devices are now integral in conducting business and have found their way into almost

every type of organization. As with anything new, technology in the workplace has caused shifts

not only in how work is performed, but also in how humans interact with one another.

Technologies like email, mobile devices, and instant messaging have changed the office

landscape in many subtle yet profound ways. These communication and performance tools

have had both positive and negative impacts on work productivity and relationships. One area

technology has undoubtedly impacted is the study of management and leadership. In many

areas of management, technology has positive and negative features that need to be navigated

in order to manage effectively. This paper synthesizes the positive and negative effects

technology has had on management and leadership, and makes suggestions based on research,

ways those in a position of authority can make smarter choices in how they utilize technology in

the workplace without detracting from overall output and effectiveness.

Technology is one of several factors causing change in the workplace, and through that,

change in what qualities are important for effective managers and leaders. The culture of a

contemporary business environment is more group-centered and entrepreneurial and with this

comes the need for leaders who are skilled in driving change, innovation, and adaptation. Skills

like these reflect the importance of technology in businesses and the shifts that have already

taken place in terms of efficient management styles and practices with technology involved.
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Supervisors and leaders are being required to take a more hands on approach to managing and

this is in part because of the changes technology has made to the workplace. Distractions from

work have been amplified with the introduction of the personal computer and even more

increasingly with internet-enabled mobile devices. Managers now must navigate their own

interactions with technology as well as their employees to ensure productivity and adequate

job performance. Technology has far-reaching effects in every aspect of business including:

security, productivity, communication, marketing, accountability, collaboration, and cost

management. These areas also align with many tasks managers are responsible for maintaining

and overseeing in the office setting. It goes without saying then that technology has impacted

the day to day life of a manager and that these changes permeate through the entire business.

One of the main ways technology has impacted management and leadership

professions is through communication. In some areas, technology has made incredible strides

in the ability of humans to communicate to conduct business. The fact that people are able to

communicate globally within minutes, and even seconds, has caused one on the biggest shifts

in industry and has created the largest world economy even known. The rise of consumerism

has been allowed in part by the advances in technology that permit faster production of goods

and monetary transaction interchanges to happen. With this however, comes the drawbacks of

less face to face interaction, which might have unintended consequences in the workplace.

When scaled down to average business size, too much technology-driven communication can

cause problems for supervisors and create unconducive work environments.

Out of the many communication tools technology provides, none has been as

instrumental as email. In many organizations, especially large ones, email is the easiest and
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fastest way to communicate important information as well as the necessary day to day items

and tasks that come up for a supervisor. With email as the main mode of communication,

comes the added benefit of being able to craft specific and thought-out messages, as well as

get answers faster, communicate to many people at once, and have documentation of

conversations or events that have taken place. The last benefit is extremely useful to managers

and supervisors, who can use the documentation to write performance reviews or have proof

of an employee's transgressions if necessary. These positive aspects of email communication

have aided in the sharp growth of industry worldwide and have increased the ability of leaders

to communicate with people in and out of their organizations to drive productivity. The

increased ability to communicate drives collaboration and innovation, new skills that managers

must hone in order to do well in the contemporary office setting. However, there are also

negative aspects to a workplace driven mostly by email communication. Some examples being:

constant distraction from other work responsibilities, impersonal messages leading to less

developed work relationships, and the chance of being misunderstood in text without the

advantages of eye contact, facial cues, and body language as part of the conversation. While

mostly subconscious, research has shown that over fifty percent of communication is done non-

verbally and the impact email has had on the workplace is still being worked out. Managers

must ensure they balance their electronic and in-person communication so to create a work

environment that is efficient but still personable. There is a saying that “you can’t manage from

behind a desk” and email communication makes it easy to attempt to do this. Much can be lost

though if in-person communication isn’t conducted in the workplace. While an email can
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replace some interactions, and even replace long meetings, it can’t communicate in the same

way a person can and should be used as a tool for communication but not a replacement.

Another area to consider when discussing electronic communication in the workplace is

the mobile device. This mainly refers to cell phones but can also be tablets and laptops. The

new trend of carrying a small computer around at all times has changed the way we

communicate in all areas of life, including the workplace. People in management positions

especially might now be expected to be “available” at all times and there are again, positive and

negative aspects to this increased culture of connectivity. Mobile devices have introduced and

normalized various applications and services that keep people in constant contact with one

another. Text messages, email on phones, social media platforms, and even the “old school”

voice call are now constantly accessible for the majority of people and this has shifted the ways

society interacts with one another. Leaving a voicemail for someone because they are “not at

home” is a rarity because the tool for communicating now resides in someone’s pocket or

purse. A new cultural dynamic in the workplace for most Americans in positions of

management is the underlying expectation that they perform work related tasks outside of

their normal working hours - and by doing this are seen as high performing employees and not

“workaholics”. The effects of this constant connectivity can be higher levels of stress in those

who performs tasks like checking and/or responding to email after hours. While being available

outside of work has obvious negative effects, there are some positive aspects that warrant

discussion. In some industries, availability outside of work is expected or necessary and mobile

devices make connecting with people in these professions much easier. Medical doctors for

example, are often “on-call” for various reasons and having the ability to carry a device around
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to receive calls, texts, or emails can make their jobs easier. In some levels of management,

where safety of staff or facilities is a requirement, being able to view security cameras remotely

or respond to alarms is extremely beneficial, and when time is of the essence, responding

quickly is a great advantage of having a mobile device. In other areas of business though, being

connected is not a necessity but rather a by-product of a culture that promotes always being

available. For a leader or manager to be effective, they need time away from work tasks to

recharge and checking emails at the dinner table or on vacation inhibits this. A supervisor’s

mood and productivity can be adversely affected and spread through an entire office setting

which will create a bad working environment. In some cases, mobile devices don’t increase

productivity but can decrease it through side effects like stress and agitation. Supervisors must

ensure they balance work and home time to create a constructive environment for themselves

and staff.

Technology is used by many businesses as a tool for organization and many have lauded

different software as making the office “greener” by using less paper and more efficient by

automating many tasks. It is true that services like email, online cloud storage, bookkeeping

software, and many others provide virtual solutions to necessary business practices and

requirements. The ability to record things electronically seems on the surface as a better

solution to other practices, and in some ways it is, but technological organization tools come

with their own set of drawbacks and concerns. The security of storing important data online is

an issue, especially for businesses who deal with personal data like credit card information or

medical records. While automated machines to store and keep information have greatly

increased a business’s ability to organize data, there are vulnerabilities in using technology for
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these purposes. In other ways though, using technology to organize data has been a great tool

that increases productivity and lessens human error. Using software like QuickBooks or Excel to

organize and track monetary information has been instrumental in the growth of the economy

and ability of businesses to maintain accurate files. In terms of how the organization of

information through technology has impacted management, many routine responsibilities have

been automated or streamlined through software and some of the “work” has been taken out

of maintaining an organized workspace. This in theory would free up a manager's time to spend

performing other tasks, but some studies have shown that a considerable amount of time is

spent in offices performing tasks related to organization technology tools. For example, many

people spend a great amount of time over the course of the day or week maintaining their

email accounts by doing things like deleting items or separating them into folders. Maintaining

electric folders on the computer can also take up time, just as it would to make files for a file

cabinet. Troubleshooting can also be a drawback to using technology to organize work related

items because everyone’s level of technology experience varies and sometimes the solution to

a problem isn’t obvious.

One area where technology is an asset to managers and leaders is through ensuring

accountability and documenting performance in the workplace. Tools like security cameras not

only increase the safety of those in the building but also provide information regarding an

employee’s work conduct and achievements. Managers can also use email to save important

conversations with employees that they might otherwise forget or not have a paper trail for.

There are also software tools that businesses can use geared specifically towards tracking

performance and delivering annual evaluations. Software like this saves managers time during
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the review process as long as they have been documenting throughout the evaluation period.

Other tools like time-keeping software assist managers with logging employee’s timecards and

ensuring tardiness or absenteeism does not become a problem. The combined array of

technology available increases a manager’s ability to ensure accountability and adequate

performance in the workplace. They also act as a time saver, allowing managers to focus on

other areas while easily being able to check and maintain these necessary aspects of the job.

Some of the more disquieting aspects of using technology for accountability purposes

include using software or network settings that allow remote access to computers by IT staff

and management. While most employees should not expect total privacy on a work computer,

software like this can lend itself to being a time waster for managers or by creating low morale

in the workplace. Supervisors should be wary on how they approach employing tools like these

and while it’s always important to make expectations clear on what can and cannot be done at

work, there are other ways to ensure accountability without creating a mistrusting

environment.

When it comes to security, technology has far advanced a manager’s ability to secure

their facilities and ensure the safety of staff. Security features go beyond just cameras to

include motion detectors, facial recognition, panic buttons, and remote access capabilities.

Supervisors can complete work in their office but still monitor the facilities at the same time

and this increases productivity. It is also beneficial in some industries to maintain records of

customers who might have been trespassed from the building or other incidents that have

happened and DVR equipment allows for this. Features like motion detectors can now send an

alert to a smartphone if there was movement in an area or if an alarm was set off, and this
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allows the manager in charge to respond quickly and accurately. Software like facial

recognition, although new, could potentially be used in industries that serve children to ensure

potential predators do not enter the premise.

One of the main ways managers have to adapt to technology in the workplace is in the

area of advertising and marketing. The internet has created numerous platforms that

businesses now have to consider when developing a marketing strategy. Creating and

maintaining a website is a necessity in most industries and managers must make good

judgement calls when it comes to deciding what gets published and advertised on the web.

Platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter allow businesses to connect with

potential customers and figuring out the best way to market and advertise on different

platforms usually calls for hiring a professional. There have been numerous instances of a high

profile business posting or sharing questionable content on social media platforms and it comes

back to management to take responsibility for what was said. The internet is a great tool for

managers to use but also needs to be carefully planned. When utilizing social media for

advertising purposes, guidelines should be in place that managers can rely on to ensure content

is accurate and persuasive.

Technology has also impacted the way in which managers submit announcements for

job openings, interview potential candidates, and hire new employees. With the internet and

creation of job search engines, openings can now be shared worldwide. Then, with software

like Skype or Google Hangouts, interviews can be conducted via video with candidates far

outside the geographical reaches of a manager’s business. This has both positive and negative

impacts on hiring managers, who now typically deal with very large and potentially
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unmanageable candidate pools that must be sifted through to find people to interview. The

ease in which managers can post job openings also translates into online application software

that is easy to fill out and submit. While increasing the physical range in which candidates can

apply for jobs means you have the best chance of getting the most qualified employee, it also

creates a lot of extra work on those who must pick candidates to interview and then schedule

and conduct the interviews. There are other advantages however, to using software to post job

announcements including: uniform applications, assistance with background and reference

checks, and pre-set letters or emails that can be sent to applicants. Those managers whose

responsibilities include hiring can utilize this type of service but be aware of the increased

amount of time it might take to find candidates.

The opportunity for collaboration is probably the biggest tool managers’ gain from more

technology use in the workplace. Many of the previously mentioned software or services also

contribute to effective collaboration between people in all levels of an organization. Businesses

can create entire forums dedicated to the disbursement of information that all employees or

managers have access to and can contribute too. Sharing knowledge easily is one of the

greatest uses of technology and has impacted industries around the world. With skills like

innovation being considered highly desirable, managers must adapt and utilize technology that

allows them to share and collaborate more in the workplace. While it is still important for

managers to be confident in making decisions based on their own judgement, the opportunities

to learn and share information are endless with technology. Webinars and other online training

opportunities contribute to this collaborative effort by allowing those in the same profession to

connect and exchange industry specific knowledge. The expansion in ways to gather and access
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information is a great tool for managers to use in their daily interactions to help them resolve

conflicts or other issues that arise.

Overall, technology has permeated almost every aspect of day to day life for many. In

the workplace, technology has added enrichment opportunities while also being subject to

many drawbacks. The nature of technology is to evolve and change and those in management

positions must adapt to the new tools and other services becoming available. Discernment in

the use of technology is imperative for those in leadership to ensure safe and productive work

environments for everyone. In many cases, there are positive and negative sides of a single

technology service and these must be considered when using or implementing the tool. Change

is the nature of society now and managers must adapt and utilize all resources available to

drive innovation in their respective industries.


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