Forget FoMO: In Business Its FoBIA

I’m pretty hip, cool, groovy and with it, most of the time. Having said that, I think I just proved otherwise by using those expressions. Maybe I’m mad, bad and trending. Whatevs the case I’m totes going to go ahead with this post.

Recently, I happened across an article about FoMO, telling me I was missing out. Naturally, it reeled me in, I mean if I was missing out, I couldn’t knowingly continue to miss out on what I was missing out on. Turns out I was missing out on knowing what FoMo meant. For the equally uniniated hip, cool and groovy  FoMo is:

Defined as a fear of one’s social standing or how one is perceived among peers,  and a need to constantly know what is happening and what others are doing, FoMO  is most prevalent in people aged 16 to 35.

Read more:

FoMo is driven by our social media, constantly connected culture. All the information about what your friends, rivals and social set are up all just a click of a button away. This is apparently creating a narcissistic, anxious and sleep deprived Gen Y. However, as the article points out it’s not all bad, FoMO may actually make you strive to better yourself. All that comparison, might just light a fire in your belly and give you a way forward.

How 2013 is this though?

These human traits have existed ever since the Garden of Eden and when you know who was a boy. They have certainly existed in the workplace ever since I was a girl. Social media just aggregates the information and delivers it in a way where actual human to human contact is minimised. It hangs the hubris out there for all the world to see, but can be a wonderful outlet for compassion, connection and achievement. I’m keen on social media, but understand the personal responsibility that comes with its use.

The reality is we all buy into FoMO to some degree or another – whether it’s gossiping over the back fence, rubber necking our way past a car accident or following our favourite celebrity on Twitter. It is not just the purview of 16 to 35 year olds. They may just lay claim to social media FoMo.

phone charging poleWhich brings me back to the business world. In the past couple of weeks, I have had cause to observe just how anxious people get when they are not tethered to their smartphones or other technology devices. At every business meeting I have had over the past fortnight people have laid their mobile devices on the table before them. Whilst they may have been on silent, at least a couple of them continued to check emails coming in. One even responded and made a call totally unrelated to the topic of the meeting at hand. What message does this send to the people in the meeting?  At a seminar, half the participants sat phone in hand, scrolling away on their screens.

Is business on the phone really that pressing? Are we really that indispensible that we can’t focus on one thing solely for 1 hour? Or that we can’t switch off after hours?

Or are we a creating a business culture of FoBIA?

FoBIA is a term I have coined to mean Fear of Being Irrelevant, Already.

It seems that the need to create the perception that we are important or busy by remaining tethered to our communication devices abounds. It also looks good to an audience if you are constantly checking in, it means you must be important. Check your emails at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm or you might miss out on a piece of information that you could have picked up in the morning *.

But how much of this is real business need, and how much of this is fear and patch protection? How much is posturing?

Worse still, is this becoming a habit?

I refuse to believe that the advent of Web 2.0  forces us to redfine the meaning of ‘need to know’ and respectful person to person communication. Respect is the bottom line for all interactions, online, offline or in outer space and committing your attention is a part of that.

True leadership and ability to influence begins with making other people feel valued. The size of one’s inbox or phone is no measure of business prowess.

So to all you legends in your own inboxes, I say no need for FoBIA and forget FoMO. Human interaction will enrich your life, information in and of itself will not.

For another post on technology and its impacts today read this great piece from Barney who blogs at Views from the Hill.

* Legitimate after hours use is not included in this statement, for example working on a time critical or global transaction where communication with other time zones are necessary.

Stop Using The “CC” As A Weapon

Email, you gotta hate love it.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

My introduction to email occurred about two decades ago when it opened up the possibility of real time communication with the whole world through an innocuous click. It also made serious inroads into my mastery of the fine art of workplace corridor loitering, you know the loitering you do as a junior whatever to wait for that perfect moment to jump into an office to experience some face time with a senior.

Some might say it is now outdated technology, that communication is all about flow and interaction. Email has a tendency to be fragmented and usually less gratifying. Some might also say that the advent of platforms such as Skype and Facebook chat have usurped the need for email. However, it seems that email is here to stay, at least in business.

I’m sure most of us have some humorous workplace email stories to tell. I’m also sure most of us have misunderstood or have been misunderstood through email and have had the experience where a lot of time and angst could have been avoided if we had just picked up this somewhat underutilised device, called the telephone.

For example, at my last workplace there was a row of desks and partitioning separating the offices which were located along  each wall of a long corridor. Sort of like the Berlin Wall, but the offices belonged to people from the same country department. Despite it being a five minute walk around the Wall (there were no gun or passport controls in evidence) and despite telephones being standard issue, my colleague would send me a slew of emails to deal with a simple matter that could have been resolved in a two minute conversation. Clearly this dude was not going to brave the Wall. Maybe he was too concerned about being thought of as a rebel dissident.

As I move through middle age, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about human interaction, relationships, motivation, influence and connectivity. I’m a fairly late study to these matters and so I approach all of them with the enthusiasm that only “mature age students” can muster.

I am particularly interested how humans use the “CC” field in email and how over time it has taken on a life of its own.


Here are couple of observations:

Using CC as a means of CYA

If you have ever played the ancient art of  “telephone-tag” you will know that the  convenience of an email is unsurpassed. You can get your point of view across quickly to a LOT of people at a time of your convenience.

This possibility has led to a rise in what is also an ancient art, the CYA. The CYA, or Cover Your Arse involves copying an  email (through the use of the CC field  – CC, standing for “circulate copy” or “carbon copy”) to twenty other people, the last eighteen of whom are at least five steps removed from the actual subject matter, and couldn’t give a toss about such minutiae. But, rather than back him or herself, the author has purposely set up an “out” if things go pear-shaped “But you knew, you had a copy of the email!”. Here’s a tip: knowing and receiving an email are vastly different things, especially if you have a high traffic in-box. I truly wonder how much these CC’s readers understand the whole matter, even if they do take time to read the email, given they would only have one side of the discussion in real time. Stop with the CC’s already!!

tearing hear out


Using CC as an escalation device – the ultimate weapon

I will admit to this being my pet peeve as I detest passive aggression in any form.

This is an example of highly strategic use of the CC. It involves CCing*  senior managers who are perceived as important. Rather than build relationships with the recipient, the author sees fit to CC* the recipient’s senior managers to make sure they know about what is usually a request of the recipient. This way, the senior manager can ensure that his or her underling is performing the required task.

Is this really necessary? Where are you going to escalate to, when escalation truly becomes necessary – if it in fact does? I’m sure that the Lord’s inbox is a lot fuller than yours and that he has other priorities.

How these people must bask in the light of CC afterglow. The cries of “Ha, I showed you and I didn’t even appear to be as spiteful as I really am” echoing through the cyberworld.

I’m not going to touch upon the BCC (being “blind circulate copy”) field in this post, which takes passive aggression to a whole other level.

In summary, the use of the CC field for anything other than what it was designed for is fraught. The agenda of the author is often clearly obvious from his or her use of the field. It is time folks, that we all stopped using the CC as a weapon and actually used it for the purposes of positive communication. Spare a thought not only for the primary recipient of the email as to how your CC will be perceived but also to all your poor CC recipients, who will either get RSI from hitting the delete key or have to spend hours filing your butt covering tracks away. Time better spent having a non-written conversation with a living, breathing human.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of some CC aggression? Do you have a humorous email use story you wish to share?

* I apologise to all the grammar purists out there for using CC as a verb, but this reflects usual parlance and I treat my blog as a conversation not a literary vehicle

D is for Dinner Time: Why I Won’t Budge

photo from flikr - chrisinplymouth photstream

You gotta love dinner time. It’s that time of the day when all you want to do after a hard day’s work is wind down, destress and sigh with relief. But alas, the battle is about to begin. You know the battle, the one to make a meal that all family members will eat, is regarded as even remotely nutritious, that won’t require three years in chef school to put together nor end with a mound of pans to wash. Yes THAT battle.

I have never been a natural cook. That hasn’t stopped me from having the goal to build up an exotic repertoire of edible meals which my family will eat. Alas…this has alluded me for several reasons, including the time factor, the shopping factor and the children factor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through recipes that to me look delicious and not too complex and discounted them out of hand because of my children. You’ll know what I mean if you have ever had a meal rejected by one of your offspring because “of the green things in it”, “the weird smell” or because “it has onions and/or mushrooms in it – ugh”. Then there’s the children and the universe factor. This is my term for when one of my children suddenly decides they don’t like a dish anymore after eating it without complaint for 10 weeks straight just because Mars is no longer in line with Jupiter or whatever.

One thing I do regard as sacred is eating around the dinner table and engaging in conversation (schedules of course permitting). As a family we can manage this about four times a week and despite the aforementioned battle, it is one of my favourite times of the day. To me the dinner table is the family board room, where all line managers report and debrief. On a good day with messers 12 and 17, we move beyond the teenage script:

“How was school?”  – “Good”

“What did you do?” – ” Nothing”

and we laugh and engage. Decisions are made. Strategies are discussed. Timetables are coordinated.

My dinner time rules are:

    • eat only at the dinner table
    • no mobile phones, computers or other digital devices to be present
    • no distracting television in the background
    • all participants are to stay seated at the table until the last person finishes eating – I have no wish to be seasick by the end of the meal with all that bopping up and down
    • every member pitches in to clear the table at the end of the meal.

My kids are great lobbyists. Over the years, they have tried to lobby to bend these rules. Each rule has had its great lobby moment with number two getting a work out at the present.

In this hectic world we live in and given the ages of my children, dinner time is one of our last remaining opportunities for face time as a family. Engagement and communication is essential to the knitting of the family fabric. I often marvel at these times just how witty and articulate my offspring can be – even if their wit is directed at my cooking or my person. There is no amount of text messaging or fantastic television shows that will convince me to give up this ritual.

Through this, I hope I have instilled in my boys the art of conversation and value for each other. I hope they continue with these rules when they move to the next stage of their lives, some of which were passed on to me by my own parents.

Now, if I could only teach them the art of eating a chicken leg gracefully with utensils and that sometimes green stuff is actually edible….

This post is part of the you know what Challenge