British workers ‘too polite’ to instant message bosses – Ricoh UK report

New research from technology giant Ricoh UK reveals that while most employees are comfortable using email, only half feel the same about instant messenger tools, just 60 per cent about SMS and of those that talk to colleagues using it a third are uncomfortable using social media.

by the commentator on 23 November 2015 08:06


One in five (21 per cent) British workers would feel uncomfortable texting or instant messaging a senior colleague if they needed urgent help at work, according to new research from technology giant Ricoh UK.  

As part of the study, Ricoh UK commissioned research from polling company YouGov which examined over 1,000 workers in Britain and their attitudes towards politeness in business and relationships with technology.

Of those who felt uncomfortable using instant messaging, nearly one in three (27 per cent) felt that it would be impolite, nearly half (47 per cent) didn’t feel it was appropriate and two per cent even reported they would feel too ‘scared’.

The data sheds light on British attitudes around the relationship with technology, with the majority (85 per cent) of respondents with work colleagues comfortable using email to communicate with them but only half (51 per cent) with instant messenger tools and 60 per cent with SMS.

Phil Keoghan, CEO of Ricoh UK & Ireland, said: “The stereotypical British culture of etiquette and politeness is a fantastic feature of this country, but it shouldn’t prevent workers from using technology to interact with colleagues or be fearful of giving honest feedback.”

Of those who use social media  to communicate with their co-workers, nearly a third (29 per cent) cited feeling uncomfortable using it.

So what is the relationship between being British and being over-polite, and are our feelings preventing us from producing first class work? Interestingly, the poll revealed that over two thirds (68 per cent) of workers with colleagues have admitted they can take negative feedback at work personally.

Additionally, of those workers who approve quality standards in their role, just over a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents admitted that they sometimes approve sub-standard work because they do not want to upset their colleagues. Six per cent of workers even admitted to signing off below-par work ‘often’, citing the same reason.

The study also found that, when asked how they would most like to be perceived in the workplace, ‘friendly’ (69 per cent), ‘supportive’ (66 per cent) and ‘polite’ (57 per cent) were among the most popular answers, with just a quarter of workers wanting to be perceived as ‘assertive’, 22 per cent as ‘direct’ and only one in ten as a ‘go-getter’.

Keoghan added: “Employees should be encouraged to feel confident about using technology in the workplace to engage with colleagues. We shouldn’t worry that instant messaging our bosses or giving negative feedback to our teams makes us look brash, impatient or even impolite. Rather, we should champion the initiative shown and the diligence of employees to ensure first-class products and services for customers, building stronger relationships all round.”

Commenting on the findings, Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist, University College London (UCL), said,  “As many psychologists have confirmed- regular communication is one of the single most important elements in the process of maintaining trusting working relationships.

Ricoh UK recently won the British Quality Foundation’s 2015 UK Excellence Award, the UK’s premier award for business excellence. Ian Stokes, Chief Operating Officer of the BQF, said: ‘Ricoh Group have a reputation for excellence, and Ricoh UK is following in that tradition with this great achievement – many congratulations.”


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