Gordon Smith

Get the message: Is firing via text message the way of the future?

text

Approx Reading Time-10When people get fired by text message, it tends to make the news and cue an uproar from those who read it. But, I contend it’s just progress, and a resistance you feel is the past dying.

 

 

 

Breaking news: young people like texting. They like it a lot.

In fact, young people like texting so much that, according to a study by marketing firm OpenMarket, a whopping 75% of millennials would happily lose the phone calling features of their beloved devices altogether, as long as they could still send text messages.

While the convenience factor of texting, particularly in regard to the ability to reply to a message whenever it bests suits the text-er, is hardly a new discovery, it is the personal aspect that is of much more interest.

Yes, while our eternally time poor young people may appreciate the general flexibility that texting allows, the act of receiving a text by itself has a psychological impact.

As OpenMarket puts it, millennials are fonder of text messaging than its verbal cousin because it is “less invasive, more personal, and makes them feel valued.”

Yet a texting taboo exists. There are, it seems, some things that are simply too important for a typical text to handle.

Perhaps the biggest of all taboos can be found in the world of human resources: the hiring – and more importantly – firing of employees.

Last year, an employee at a Queensland recycling company was found to have been unfairly dismissed via text message, after a profanity-filled exchange with their CEO. After a clash around his unpaid overtime, the labourer received a direct, albeit grammatically questionable message:

The old man here. Do not come back tomorrow thanks.

Despite the text coming after an expletive heavy tirade from the employee, with more use of the f-word than an art house film, it was the firing by text that took centre stage in headlines and opening paragraphs.

It is this that brings us to the big question: has business practice fallen behind the advances of technology? Indeed, with phone calls fast becoming a remnant of an era gone by, is it time that society as a whole embraced texting as the communication standard?

With the vast majority of young people well and truly behind the idea of text messages for both personal and professional use, it is not so much a matter of if such a change will come, but when.

Indeed, considering those same young people find text-based communication to be a more personal way to communicate than the traditional phone call, along with the convenience and flexibility of texting, it’s hard to see just where the reasoning behind holding on to phone calls is coming from.

Sure, it could be argued that the firing of an employee is a very emotional, very high-impact process, and that it could almost be seen as careless to tackle such a process through the cold, tone-less format of texting. But considering text messages are now used for everything from birthday celebrations to breakups, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t think it was possible to convey meaning – and more importantly, emotion – via SMS.

Perhaps it is not a question of a business-societal divide, but rather a generational one.

No longer a method of communication, the standard, voice-based call will be a reminder of an era pre-smart phone. With that in mind, it is time that society as a whole – and the businesses that facilitate it – embrace change.

After all, most people involved in the hiring and firing process are, generally speaking, of an older generation; a generation that has not embraced texting on a scale anywhere near that of the millennial messenger.

Perhaps the “when” in this case is simply whenever it is that millennials start climbing the career ladder, and therein bring a great culture shift in the world of communications.

Regardless of when such a change will happen, it is inevitable that phone calls will cease to be. No longer a method of communication, the standard, voice-based call will be a reminder of an era pre-smart phone. With that in mind, it is time that society as a whole – and the businesses that facilitate it – embrace change.

In an era defined by its leaps in technology, outrage around text message firings seems more than a little misplaced. Even more so when that outrage spills into our newspapers. Maybe it is outrage at a changing social landscape. Maybe it is a pining for a time long gone, a nostalgic gaze into the landlines of the past.

Whatever it is, it is not enough to stop progress. Text messages are infinitely more convenient, can be tailored to the recipient, and can hold equally as much emotional gravitas as the traditional phone call.

Add in the availability of those messages to be accessed on multiple platforms, and being several times more accessible to people of all capacities, and it paints a very clear picture:

The phone call is dead. Long live the text message.

 

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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