Workplace interactions and the polymorphic role of e-mail

Paula O'Kane*, Mark J. Palmer, Owen Hargie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - One of the principal organizational developments in the last decade has been the pervasive influence of computer mediated communication (CMC) tools. The purpose of this paper is to closely interrogate the day-to-day role of e-mail in explicating, influencing and shaping social and information interactions within an organization. Design/methodology/approach - A series of in-depth interviews (n = 29) were undertaken to elicit employee opinions on their e-mail adaptation, experiences and practices. Findings - The paper provides insights into the polymorphic role of e-mail, particularly the way in which it is adapted by individuals within the organization. Specifically, it shows how this tool interacts within day-to-day work activities and tasks. Research limitations/implications - This paper investigates only one CMC tool, e-mail, although it is envisaged that this initial work will be used to raise a new understanding of the socially skilled adaptation of other CMC tools by employees as well as leaders. Practical implications- Previously unreported insights into employee opinion are delineated in order to provide a focus from which organizations can train and develop their employees and leaders to maximise knowledge creation within the organization. Originality/value - This study assesses CMC from an under-researched "real-life" perspective in which everyday interactions are used to understand employee reactions to e-mail communication and hence foster an atmosphere in which these interactions assist organizational development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-324
Number of pages17
JournalLeadership and Organization Development Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2007


  • electronic mail
  • information management
  • social interaction
  • workplace development


Dive into the research topics of 'Workplace interactions and the polymorphic role of e-mail'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this