Why Technology is Terrifying

by | May 6, 2019 | Leadership, Workplace happiness

My friend Teresa, a kindergarten teacher, is worried.

She says the children she is teaching have very littlestrength in their fingers. They can’t hold crayons to draw. They can’tmanipulate scissors to cut.  The onlything their fingers can do really well is slide– to advance a screen on adevice. 

Technology’s Impacton Kids

Kids are growing up behind screens. Data shows that 25% ofkids have smartphones between 2 and 5 years of age. Psychologists will tell youthat face-to-face interactions are the primary way kids learn and bond, so whatwe do with technology matters more than ever. Kids who grow up communicatingthrough screens are less intimate with human emotions; now there are evenclasses to teach them how to read emotions.

Social media is how preteens and teens relate to oneanother, again behind a technical interface. Their next stop is the world ofwork, where we leaders are deploying technology to save money and time, whichmeans communications between co-workers are again through interfaces and behindscreens. Remote workers might never see another co-worker. The workplace usedto be where we gathered, formed friendships, and felt connected to a largercommunity. That social bonding has been important to our emotional well-beingsince the first homo sapien walked the earth. Communities of belonging helpedus stay safe, and feel connected.

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Building Trust with Coworkers

At HGTV, the company I most recently helped to build, wetried to consider the emotional health of our organization.  We began with a central location but hadregional offices, and individual, remote workers too where it made sense.However, remote workers had a regional office or our central location to cometo as well; they weren’t isolated. They had a choice. When human beings feelseparate, they can begin to feel endangered. We’re no different from woolymammoths that way. A gathering place matters.

How do we experience the precious lessons we learn throughlooking at someone eye to eye, interacting face to face, heart to heart?  When do our screens become walls?  

Building trust with your co-workers is incredibly important, so you can work with speed and focus. I interviewed Dr. Andrew Moore, who runs the Computer Science Department for Carnegie Mellon University, for my new book, Fully Human. Before CMU, he worked at Google for 12 years remotely, out of their Pittsburgh office. Much of his communication with his colleagues was through video conferencing and email.  He said if he wasn’t in Mountain View at least once every couple of months, the emails became ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. Trust broke down. This is a guy who will tell you every company of distinction in the future will be run by technologists. He adores technology.  Trust must be built face-to-face.  It can be sustained through screens but that comes later. The emotional health of our companies will always precede their economic health. That’s probably a good thing to remember.

If you want to read more stories about emotional fitness, and get Susan’s Five Fast Tips for Building Trust, sign up here.

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