Micro-attacks have become the daily life of teleworkers

Un tiers des personnes interrogées ont remarqué que les majuscules, les polices en gras ou plusieurs points d'exclamation dans les messages étaient davantage utilisés.

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Posted on Jan 28, 2021, 12:24 PMUpdated Feb 1, 2021 2021 at 11:04


As requested in my previous email, ASAP update PowerPoint V3 concerning the new propal.



Hey Yves,

Unless I am mistaken, you received said updated PPT in my email this morning.




You are aware that the document must be deposited in our shared server. Please take this good practice into account for the next few times.



How many micro-attacks in this exchange of emails? Yves (this exchange is a collection of several testimonies) recognizes two, when Thomas thinks he has experienced half a dozen. Working at a distance, neither of them will share with the other these expressions perceived as perfidy. In the age of mass teleworking, these digital incivilities are more and more common. And on this 316th day of “full remote”, you feel vaccinated in the face of these small daily attacks.

Or rather you think you are. By rereading the email sent this morning, you understand with amazement that you too have adopted the aggressive passive formulas that irritated you so much a few months ago. Words too often capitalized or ellipsis that multiply, and your entire message takes on a tone sometimes exasperated, sometimes dramatic, everything will depend on the mood of your correspondent. Because the devil is in the details. Between “I haven't seen your update” and “I haven't seen your update …”, the nuance is important.

” We listen ! “

However, you can console yourself by telling yourself that you are not alone in having lost your Outlookian courtesy. According to the occupational health barometer carried out by OpinionWay for Human Footprint published at the end of 2021, a third of the people questioned noticed that the capital letters, the bold fonts or several exclamation points in the messages were more used since the beginning of the health crisis.

Here and there, we notice the absence of a “hello”, sometimes of a “thank you” or the increased use of English because “Yes, it's still very practical”. English, “a mark of professional belonging” has become a sort of neutral language, sociologist Agnès Vandevelde-Rougale told us in a recent article. The situation is worse when you switch from email to instant messaging. Informal exchanges on Teams, Skype or another Slack favored the speed of the exchanges as much as their rudeness. “”Send me the results of T3 please”.

Another widespread digital incivility in the era of teleworking: the lack of listening during videoconferences. One person has the floor. His speech becomes a bit long and we see the face of a participant change color, under the effect of the brilliance of the e-commerce site on which he is browsing (beware of glasses wearers!). Another typing on the keyboard is heard. Yet another cuts his camera off, thinking his digital avatar will serve as an attentive audience. The speaker already tired of speaking in front of a screen must put up with the slight doubt that he is not being listened to. A feeling shared by seven in ten people who find that during remote meetings, several people do not listen or do something else.

The advice of the President of the ECB

If you are a victim of it, whether from a distance or in physical form, do like Christine Lagarde (who, moreover, thinks that this rudeness affects speakers more than speakers): tap your microphone and attack your audience with a: ” We listen ! “.

Everything that is not expressed is printed

Fortunately, our days are not only filled with these harsh moments. However, it is undeniable that teleworking has strained inter-professional relations: 48% of employees believe that their customers have been more aggressive since the Covid-19 crisis, followed by their colleagues and then their managers. This takes the form of rudeness in an email or an inappropriate remark during a video conference. One in three teleworkers say they have paid the price for their interior design or clothing style.

Teleworking also confronts employees with their fear of appearing dilettante in the eyes of management. The Human Footprint barometer observes that the copying of chefs has multiplied in recent months: 49% of people questioned more often see emails passing the sole purpose of which would be to show an activity in the eyes of the hierarchy.

Namely that this suspicion is largely integrated by the employees themselves. 55% of them think that people abuse when they are in remote work. This shows that the challenges of these new forms of digital work are not to be found so much in technological success as in human uses and behavior.

Teleworking does not promote conflict resolution

Beyond teleworking, the health and economic context does not favor peaceful relationships. For managers, under the effect of an approaching deadline, an account closure or an imminent meeting with the CEO, it is all too easy to indulge in a sentence that will be perceived as offensive . Very often, the annoyances generated are not detectable from a distance. Eight in ten managers say it's harder to spot signs of psychological distress from a distance, according to barometer figures. The employee will ruminate on his resentment and frustration at not having been able to clarify the situation. Evil sets in and the scars left bare in professional social relations multiply.

As we know, teleworking does not promote conflict resolution. ” If they are left without follow-up, they increase in intensity or even disintegrate relationships until they cross a point of no return, explains Christophe Nguyen, occupational psychologist and founder of Empreinte Humaine. It is utopian to think that the return on site will be as before. Each individual will not have experienced the same confinement and each will come back with differences in perception and emotional impacts. “

If previously, a tune-up with the printer allowed most of the time to start again on a sound basis, now it becomes encrusted. And as Jacques Salomé, psychosociologist wrote: “Knowing that everything that is not expressed is imprinted, it is desirable to promote expression beyond emotion, or resonance. This practice will prevent some somatization, stress and anxiety. “

A remark that adds to an anxiety-provoking context

In this context, the void left by social exchanges is filled by “work” discussions. And often nothing but “work”. Once the day is over, few employees want to extend their screen time with a digital aperitif. Outside the pandemic, colleagues would have left the premises together, to the metro or to the car, talking about everything and nothing.

These professional relationships reduced to their strict necessity mean that some employees feel that they have become “Production machines”. Moreover, the barometer reveals that some (47%) feel controlled by digital tools: connection light, mail sending schedule, etc. As such, almost half consider the webcam as a form of intrusion into their personal life. A situation that alerts Caroline Diard, teacher at EDC London Business School. “”The confinement has seen meetings develop where employees are sometimes asked to put their camera – while the recommendations of the CNIL go the opposite way – and certain slices of life at work are now recorded, without a safeguard, no guarantee “, explains the researcher who is currently working on “videoflicage””.



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