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Technology, Tactics and Tension

Have you ever emailed a carefully crafted message over the weekend to your boss touting your accomplishments on a project?

Niclas Erhardt, assistant professor of human resources in the Maine Business School at the University of Maine, researched this employee self-promotion tactic, as well as ensuing responses from managers.

Whereas office impressions used to be predominantly determined by face-to-face interaction, Erhardt says they’re increasingly shaped by communication technologies — including email. He studied the interplay of impression management, communication technologies and opposing tensions between managers and their subordinates.

Bosses and subordinates can have competing goals, he says, which results in office friction in knowledge-based work, such as that done in consumer health, insurance and engineering firms. This results in managers and employees engaging in an interactive tug of war to manage impressions.

Erhardt says the push-and-pull tactics can help maintain balance in workplaces and allow for opposing goals to be met, which supports the idea that tension can be productive for a business. Managers, he says, should recognize that competing and legitimate goals exist and find creative ways for themselves and subordinates to achieve their differing goals, as well as the common ones.

Erhardt found three related sets of communication tactics and countertactics that signify fundamental tensions in manager-subordinate relationships: dodging response versus exerting social pressure; multicommunicating versus singular communicating; and promoting oneself versus giving credit to all.

In the promoting oneself versus giving credit to all dialectic, Erhardt found that subordinates used email to enhance their personal reputation and visibility. They might send emails late on a weeknight, on a weekend or when on vacation to demonstrate their dedication and commitment and gain “face time” with the boss.

Bosses also used email as a countertactic. Some responded to an employee’s self-promoting email by forwarding the original email from the employee after they had added their kudos for the contributions of other project members (giving credit to all).

Erhardt says managers use a tactic — a dodging response — to save time and face. Bosses inundated with multiple employee emails asking questions and requesting input may not immediately respond to the emails or selectively choose certain questions to answer. This tactic allows them to avoid being accountable or pinned down on a particular stance or topic while still maintaining a solid working relationship with subordinates.

As a countertactic, Erhardt says subordinates apply added pressure to get a timely response. They might go directly to the manager’s office to get an answer face-to-face, or send follow-up emails, texts and phone calls to push for a reply. They also might recruit co-workers to exert similar pressure on the boss.

Another tension in organizations arises when managers want employees’ undivided attention at meetings but employees wish to multitask. Erhardt refers to the ensuing impression management tactic as “multicommunicating versus singular communicating.”

Due to pressures on subordinates’ time, Erhardt says some attend meetings by teleconference and simultaneously use smartphones and laptops to complete other work-related tasks and personal chores. All the while they still strive to create the impression of being an involved team player to stay in good standing with the manager.

Managers who prefer to have employees’ undivided attention during meetings may respond by encouraging subordinates to attend meetings in person and by noting their frustration when communication devices interfere with and interrupt the productivity of the meeting.

Jennifer Gibbs, associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, joined Erhardt for the study.

Erhardt and Gibbs conducted the study with six consumer health, insurance and engineering firms in the United States and Sweden. The authors of the study encouraged additional research be done to better understand how impression management tactics operate with a broader array of media, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

The study, “The Dialectical Nature of Impression Management in Knowledge Work: Unpacking Tensions in Media Use Between Managers and Subordinates” is in the May 2014 issue of Management Communication Quarterly.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

WABI Covers MBS Corps Basketball Tournament to Benefit Humane Society

WABI (Channel 5) reported on the “Nets for Pets” basketball tournament held at the New Balance Student Recreation Center to benefit the Bangor Humane Society. The MBS Corps, the Maine Business School’s community outreach organization, organized the tournament and took donations such as pet toys, treats and blankets for the animal shelter. UMaine business students Zach Nguyen and Kevin Leary spoke about the event they helped organize. Nguyen called the event a success and a great way to get students involved while supporting a good cause. “It’s all about the animals. We love our pets. I mean, they’re our second family,” Leary said. “We’re all out here to have a good time and support the Humane Society.”

WABI Attends ‘Making it in Maine’ Business Conference, Networking Event

WABI (Channel 5) covered the University of Maine Alumni Association’s Black Bear Business Conference “Making it in Maine: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology in the 21st Century.” The conference aimed to bring Maine’s small-business owners and entrepreneurs together with UMaine faculty, economic development staff, business students and successful Maine business leaders to share ideas, strategies and techniques that promote growth. UMaine student Daniel Kaepplinger, who helped organize the event said he thinks a lot of future business deals and partnerships will result from the event. “There’s a lot of learning that’s going on here today. A lot of business cards that are going to be traded,” he said. UMaine student Chuck Hastings said organizing and attending the event was a great learning experience.

‘Making it in Maine’ Business Conference, Networking Event Advanced by BDN

The Bangor Daily News reported on the University of Maine Alumni Association’s half-day conference designed to bring Maine’s small-business owners and entrepreneurs together with UMaine faculty, economic development staff, business students and successful Maine business leaders to share ideas, strategies and techniques that promote growth. The Black Bear Business Conference “Making it in Maine: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology in the 21st Century” takes place Friday, April 25 at the Buchanan Alumni House on the UMaine campus. Susan Mullaney, UMaine Alumni Association director of communications, said the conference will allow alumni who are interested in opening a small business or patenting a product the opportunity to connect with the people and services who can help them move forward. She added the goal of the conference is to pull resources and expertise from various UMaine programs that can help Mainers bring small-business ideas to fruition.

Donations Sought for MBS Corps Bangor Humane Society Fundraiser

The MBS Corps, the Maine Business School’s community outreach organization, will hold a fundraiser to benefit the Bangor Humane Society from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. Donations such as pet toys, treats and blankets can be dropped off at the gym during the MBS Corps’ “Nets for Pets” basketball tournament, which will also benefit the Bangor Humane Society. More on the basketball tournament is online.

Jones Interviewed by MPBN for Alternative Currencies Report

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network spoke with Nory Jones, an e-commerce specialist and professor of management information systems at the University of Maine, for the report “Cash-strapped Mainers eyeing alternative currencies.” Jones said alternative currencies such as the Bitcoin are unstable and volatile, and even though the currency has gained some legitimacy, she doesn’t think it’s enough to make the coins useful. Jones said in order for virtual currency to be legitimate, she thinks it’s going to need some form of governmental support.

‘Making it in Maine’ Business Conference, Networking Event April 25

The University of Maine Alumni Association invites UMaine students, faculty, staff and alumni to the Black Bear Business Conference “Making it in Maine: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology in the 21st Century” on Friday, April 25 at the Buchanan Alumni House on the UMaine campus.

A half-day, intensive conference from 1 to 5:30 p.m. is designed to bring Maine’s small-business owners and entrepreneurs together with UMaine faculty, economic development staff, business students and successful Maine business leaders to share ideas, strategies and techniques that promote growth. The day’s program includes presentations; tours; exhibits; and panel discussions on topics such as marketing, financing, technology and innovation engineering.

The conference will be followed by a networking event and reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The reception will feature a showcase of innovators and entrepreneurs who are helping to build Maine’s economic future, such as keynote speaker, Desmond Fitzgerald, entrepreneur in residence for the Maine Venture Fund.

Registration is required and student attendance is limited on a first-come, first-served basis. Students, faculty and staff can attend for free, and alumni registration is $25. The deadline for online registration is 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 22. To register after April 22, participants can call 800.934.2586, ext. 11146. More information, including a complete schedule and registration forms, is available online.

WABI Interviews Colburn About Filing Taxes

Steven Colburn, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Maine, spoke with WABI (Channel 5) for a report about filing taxes and the April 15 deadline. Colburn said when it comes to filing taxes, people tend to procrastinate because they’re likely afraid of making a mistake. He suggested filers use last year’s return as a guide to help complete this year’s taxes, if their income is roughly the same as it was last year. “If there is a big increase in income then it makes it a little more complicated,” he said.

Korea Times Interviews Mandzik About UMaine Programs for International Students

The Korea Times spoke with Carol Mandzik, manager of Business Graduate Programs and Executive Education and Internship Programs at the University of Maine, about what educational programs the university offers to international students. “At UMaine, students can double-major within or outside their primary discipline of study, and also choose a concentration, a minor or even opt into the five-year MBA program,” Mandzik said, adding students can save time and money by choosing a double-major or getting a jumpstart on their MBA.

2014 GradExpo Winners

More than 100 presentations were made made during the 2014 Graduate Academic Exposition (GradExpo) in separate categories of four areas of competition — poster presentations, oral presentations, intermedia and fine arts exhibits, and a PechaKucha, or rapid-fire slide show event — as well as a graduate student photo contest.

About $15,000 worth of prize money was awarded at this year’s expo, including the $2,000 President’s Research Impact Award given to the graduate student and adviser who best exemplify the UMaine mission of teaching, research and outreach.

Following are the winning presentations:


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UMaine News
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System