Feature

Best columns: Business

The eerie silence of the modern-day office

Megan Hustad
The New York Times

I was visiting my publisher’s office recently when I noticed something missing, said author Megan Hustad in The New York Times. Absent from the general hum of activity was the ringing of telephones. Instead of talking on the phone, “everyone sat at desks silently reading and typing e-mail messages.” This is “one of those cultural declines that few people are likely to lament.” But I, for one, miss the continuous trilling of office telephones. When I worked in an office, “all the noise seemed to add energy and urgency to the day.” And just as important, I learned the finer points of my chosen profession by eavesdropping on my boss’ phone conversations. “The office phone call, properly overheard, is really the cheapest, easiest way to transmit institutional knowledge.” Business calls also taught me “the necessary summoning of courage for potentially fraught encounters.” Typing a tough e-mail is simply no substitute for the fine art of handling a difficult conversation. So though we may welcome the way e-mail spares us from confrontation, it’s worth remembering that “resorting to e-mail rather than picking up the phone results in not merely a quieter workplace but also a feebler one.”
 

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