Literature Review and research model
This chapter starts with a short excursion in the market of IM in Germany to provide an overview of the current situation. It is followed by a literature review for instant messenger and emoticons. First, the properties and usage of these two items is depicted, than further focal points are worked out. This is followed by the construction of the research model including the development of the necessary hypotheses as outlined by Hair, Hult, Ringle and Sarstedt (2016).
A full table of the literature review can be found in Appendix A.
Excursion: The market of Instant Messengers in Germany
In an annual representative study of online usage behaviour in Germany from October 2015 the German public TV stations ARD and ZDF captured the usage of Social Media applications including Instant Messengers. According to their numbers 43% of the population older than 14 uses IM services on a daily basis and at least 59% occasionally. Referring to age groups, people between the age of 14 and 29 years have a share of 72% of daily IM usage and the age group of 30 to 49 years has a share of 48% while among people older than 50 IM use has a share of 18%. Moreover, their numbers indicate that the overall amount of people using social media applications is stagnating while in this group of people there is a strong shift towards IM applications and from an application perspective WhatsApp has become the most dominant social media platform with a 57% share of regular usage (Tippelt & Kupferschmitt, 2015).
The statistic service Statista reports slightly lower numbers and indicates that 48% of the Germans are using IM services at least on a weekly basis in 2015 (Statista, 2016).
As with all statistical data these numbers should not be overrated and are just estimations, but they still indicate that approximately half of the population, especially under the age of fifty is using IM services. Moreover, IM seems to be established in society and cannot be seen as a small niche anymore.
A study on the usage of so called enterprise 2.0 tools in companies in Germany that help to connect employees in companies to further collaboration by Wiesbaden Business School and FeelGood@Work from October 2015 shows that the improvement of internal communication and communication is for 87% of the companies a major goal of the use of such tools. In addition, a better sharing of knowledge is intended for 56% of the companies. The study also indicates that companies are unsure whether the use of respective tools could reduce productivity if they are not used efficiently. Between 2010 and 2015 a large increase in active interest of companies in enterprise 2.0 tools was recognized from 28% to 81% (Petry, 2015).
These data indicate that communication tools like IM are becoming more and more relevant in companies as the communication in companies is increasingly gaining importance among the agendas of senior management. Not only is there a trend of individual usage of IM applications but there is also the push of companies drawing on social media tools. Accordingly, a future growth of IM usage in companies can be expected.
Literature Review: Instant Messenger
Properties and usage
Instant messengers have become pervasive in the current working environment be it in the form of a desktop application or in smartphones. They have proven to be a useful means of communication with low communication costs. Originally based on chat systems instant messengers have adopted many features of the former. Thus, they support the possibility to have group discussions and to transmit pictures as well as files of all types and the recent versions integrate even a call and video call functionality. Another feature is that they usually signal the sender whether the recipient has received the message and whether he is available (Cameron & Webster, 2005). Nardi, Whittaker and Bradner (2000) describe this as outeraction meaning the ability of an individual to decide when to start or to reply to an often informal conversation which is also described as a social negotiation function to establish communication. Besides the authors also identified several communication functions of IM and categorized them as follows. IM serve for quick questions and clarification of current work related task, for coordination and scheduling, to coordinate impromptu social meetings and to keep in touch with friends and family (see also Quan-Haase, Cothrel, & Wellman, 2005; Vartiainen & Jahkola, 2013).
IM can be described as a peer to peer communication tool dealing with private data. Usually it is not bound to a server, but connects the participants in a conversation directly. It is therefore, mostly self-organized which makes it cost efficient and independent of existing infrastructure which makes them less prone for issues related to server failures (Tigelaar, Hiemstra, & Trieschnigg, 2012).
Koo, Wati and Jung (2011) analysed in a business context how a task and social factors influence the usage of IM and other communication tools and its subsequent effect on task performance. They therefore used task characteristics which were composed by task analysability, task urgency and task complexity (Zigurs & Buckland, 1998). The results indicate that IM is suitable for all task characteristics (Koo et al., 2011). Furthermore, especially the ability to communicate synchronously with colleagues had a positive influence in executing urgent tasks. However, it was also argued that the usage of IM might decrease with urgent tasks and be substituted with face to face communication, because the ability to communicate critical ideas and concepts effectively via IM is questioned. Nonetheless IM is suggested to be a valuable tool in combination with email when the latter is used to convey information and the former to converge it.
Ou, Davison, Zhong and Liang (2010) showed how the use of instant messengers as a supplement of emails by professionals in China can help to enhance the social network and therefore improve the communication flow and consequently, the performance of teams. In accordance with MST, the combination of different tools is seen as the key element for an efficient communication performance.
Isaacs, Kamm, Schiano, Walendowski and Whittaker (2002) identify two styles of IM use in workplace communication. Frequent IM users were shown to tend to engage longer in conversations, but act with a faster pace and shorter turns spreading conversations over the day, while infrequent users tend to engage in shorter conversations. The results further hint that IM is mainly used for discussions which is why the authors suggest that the addition of other communication tools like video or audio may not be too relevant. These findings are in line with a follow up study by Isaacs, Walendowski, Whittaker, Schiano and Kamm (2002) who identified two categories and related patterns of IM use. One category is to use IM for collaboration and multiple purposes, which leads to a large amount of short messages within very little time. The other category is the use of IM for coordination, which is focused on one purpose only and engage in rather slow conversations.
According to a case study by Cameron and Webster (2005) instant messengers are dependent on a critical mass in an organisation to be successful and they are seen as a more informal way of communication which allows the participants to circumvent formal phone conversations. Moreover, instant messengers were used in a polychronic way allowing to either support the communication with another communication tool or to allow to communicate with several people at the same time. A special usage scenario of instant messengers is when the recipient cannot be reached in person or on phone because he is for example in a meeting, then the instant messenger allows to forward a message directly without intruding. As Nardi et al. (2000) point out that IM provide the concept of plausible deniability (p. 84). This means that despite the availability signal of the application the sender cannot know whether the recipient is indeed close to the application. Thus, users feel comfortable in ignoring incoming messages without assuming to offend the sender. Garrett and Danziger (2008) emphasize that from a sender’s perspective IM can be seen as a decent form of checking availability. It is argued that it is also a more careful and less distracting mean to start a conversation compared to a phone call or an office visit as the sender is aware that he cannot expect an immediate response.
Gupta, Li and Sharda (2013) point out that especially the availability signal of IM could have a negative effect on an individual’s task performance because it seems to urge people to reply to messages and therefore interrupting the current task. An enforcing factor is the hierarchical role of the sender, which often urges the recipient to reply if it is from a superior. It is highlighted that an increase in reception of messages leads to perceived increased task complexity, which negatively influences the mental work load. It is stressed that sensible adjustments in the work flow can mitigate the problems and while there might be negative effects on individual task performance it does not necessarily imply negative effects on the overall work outcomes.
Fetter, Seifert and Gross, (2010) analyse the use of the availability signal function. Their experience sample shows that in general the status of availability in the IM was in less than half of the cases true. Moreover, it was shown that users tend to not change their status at all, unless there is a special occasion often combined with a negative experience. Quite often, there is also a lack of awareness about this functionality. Therefore, it is suggested that the use of what they describe as selective availability should be stronger promoted as it can help to manage interruptions better.
Shaw, Scheufele and Catalano (2007) present the concept of presence awareness communication as a basis for their analysis of IM. They define it as any form of mediated communication in which users are directly aware of the online presence status of their communication partners, both before and during the communication (Shaw et al., 2007, p. 378). Their results indicate that an IM has a positive impact on presence awareness. Overall, it mostly served as a complementary communication tool compared to email and phone, but it prevailed that the use of IM increased and was often used as means to initially contact persons. The authors emphasize the idea of IM as back-channel communication, i.e. to provide the ability to retrieve additional information or verification from other sources. In addition to that, the knowledge of the availability of a communication partner is also seen as useful for planning conversations when several people are supposed to be approached.
In a team context, IM is seen as an important means to facilitate a sense of copresence also for distributed team members as it provides an ongoing communication flow (Darics, 2014). This leads to a continuous switch between synchronous and asynchronous communication. The results highlight that signalling of availability of the IM be it automatically generated or self-disclosed is treated different individually and unavailability does not mean that a message is not sent. It seems to be accepted that a message is received as the IM records all of them. Quite often politeness strategies are used to emphasize the awareness of potential unavailability and to avoid appearing too blunt. Especially in conversations with less frequent communication partners, polite behaviour was expected to positively affect response times (Isaacs et al., 2002). However, the perception of response time seems to be a matter of personal expectations, which can often lead to uncommon conversations who are not following common norms of communication. Nonetheless urgency and hierarchical conditions are seen as further explanations for differing delays but require further research (Darics, 2014).
Once IM are used intensively this could also lead to a perceived obligation to reply to messages as soon as possible (Ahad & Lim, 2014).
In a comparison of the task effectiveness with emails in distributed teams Hung, Huang, Yen and Chang (2007) found that IM showed better outcomes. Especially in tasks related to idea generations and to reduce equivocality in messages IM were superior. The use of emoticons further enhanced the results. Besides, solving a task over IM was not seen as difficult as compared to emails.
According to Lancaster, Yen, Huang and Hung (2007) IM is seen as superior compared to emails regarding its ease of use, its ability for building relationships and the ability to convey emotions. Although these functional benefits were recognized, IM was primarily preferred for personal and social communication while emails were preferred for work related communication.
A common topic of IM research is the effect of the frequency of interruptions on the task performance. Following O’Conaill and Frohlich (1995) an interruption can be defined as a synchronous interaction which was not initiated by the subject, was unscheduled and resulted in the recipient discontinuing their current activity (p. 262).
Rennecker and Godwin (2003) propose that an unstructured use of IM has negative effects on the overall productivity due to increased communicative workload, polychromic communication and more interruptions which would lead to a cognitive overload (see also Cummings, 2004; Cutrell, Czerwinski, & Horvitz, 2000; Czerwinski, Cutrell, & Horvitz, 2000a, 2000b). Conversely, Garrett and Danziger (2008) indicate in their study that IM can have the opposed effect, it will further more frequent communication and at the same time reduce interruptions as they can be used to manage interruptions and to handle last-minute delays in communication. This will happen because workers tend to adopt IM in their workflow and adjust it accordingly to mitigate or avoid negative impacts. Ou and Davison (2011) present similar findings. While IM use is seen as a strong influence on the frequency of work interruptions, it does not seem to affect the outcomes as IM use positively influences communication quality and mutual trust. IM does not seem to lead to a significant increase of interruptions as compared to any other cause. Furthermore, the author found a significant effect of IM use on interactivity, which in turn is seen as an influence factor for communication quality and performance. Mark, Gonzalez and Harris (2005) argue that interruptions should not be seen based on singular tasks but on the impact of their content on the overall work flow. Their results suggest that interruptions are occurring in roughly 11 minutes intervals. Hudson, Christensen, Kellogg and Erickson (2002) emphasize that the tool should not be tailored to stop or to queue interruptions as their benefits often arise due to their delivery at a certain time. Indeed, it requires the contribution of the user to adjust a software to best serve the individual purpose. The acceptance of interruptions is seen as socially constructed and thus there should be a possibility to integrate this context in the tool and allow to prioritize interruptions.
The usage of instant messengers was seen as a way to interrupt communication that could have negative effects on the concentration on a working task (Cameron & Webster, 2005). However, there was no clear opinion whether they can be seen as more interruptive than any other communication tool. The results also point out that instant messengers are an additional means of communication, not just replacing emails or phones but the only tool to reach out to certain people. Basoglu, Fuller and Sweeney (2009) found that there is a positive effect of cognitive load and performance when it comes to task accuracy. However, the frequency of interruptions will negatively affect cognitive load and consequently task accuracy.
In a case study of knowledge workers, Mansi and Levy (2013) found that task completion time is a factor affected by IM interruptions. Their results indicate that for simple tasks related to interdependencies between different factors IM interruptions can have a positive effect on the task completion time while for respectively complex tasks they can have a negative effect. They further elaborate that there will be a point in such a complex task where the individual will start to ignore the interruptions if their frequency increases in order to finish the task. Therefore, the potentially ever increasing negative effects of interruptions will be stopped by the employees themselves. For a normal workflow IM use is seen as rather uncritical although it might increase the task completion time, but this mostly only to the extent that the time of IM use is added.
Lebbon and Sigurjónsson (2016) obtained similar results in an experimental study and emphasize that heavy users of IM tend to type fast which is seen as an indication that they are aware of the priorities in their job. It is also stressed that potential prohibitions or monitoring of IM are causing more harm than they are benefitting due to reduced trust and commitment. Overall, the authors point out that for experienced users of IM negative impacts on the performance were not recognized.
Fante, Jacobi and Sexton (2013) analysed whether the use of IM and its consequential interruption negatively affects reading comprehension. Their results indicate that the comprehension itself does not differ between people that use IM and those that do not, regardless of the difficulty of the text. However, it was shown that the users of IM took longer to complete the reading comprehension. This decreased efficiency is in line with similar research that analysed multitasking involving IM (Bowman, Levine, Waite, & Gendron, 2010; Fox, Rosen, & Crawford, 2009). In a study of the impact of IM use on the academic performance of college students, a majority reports that IM negatively affects the ability of students to complete schoolwork (Junco & Cotten, 2011).
Licoppe (2010) argues that the perception of interruptions through IM and other tools as a cause for bad performance has changed towards a more open and positive attitude. The handling of interruptions is seen as a means to contextualize with the surroundings and to optimize the own work flow in a continuously changing environment. De Vos, Hofte and De Poot (2004) stress that the increase of reachability due to the use of IM is often pointed out after the adoption of it for companies.
According to González and Mark (2004) people tend to get interrupted by others as often as they interrupt others. In general, the working day in a computer-mediated office is characterised by discontinuities and fragmentation. In most cases the use of one application before switching to another is only few minutes and in the longest scenario application use reached a duration of roughly twelve minutes.
Polychronicity and multitasking
In an experiment to examine the impact of IM on perceived task complexity and process satisfaction, Li, Gupta, Luo and Warkentin (2011) found that polychronicity acts as a moderator for the effect of interruption frequency of IM. Polychronicity is the tendency of an individual to be involved in more than one task simultaneously, also known as multitasking, and it is considered to be a rather stable trait (Conte & Gintoft, 2005). It was shown that persons that are monochronic are more susceptible for interruptions than polychronic persons. They are less satisfied with the multitasking process as they perceive an increased time pressure and increased task complexity. They would dedicate more time for information processing of the interruption than for their current task, while a polychromic person tries to find a balance between both. Moreover, the position power of the message sender was seen as another factor that especially affects monochronic people. According to Sykes (2011) multitasking has three major drawbacks for computer users: It is less efficient because the continuous switching between different applications consumes mental resources and time. It is more complicated because it requires awareness and management of the parallel tasks. It can be self-directed because a user tends to make a decision to perform a second task even if he does not have to.
Wang et al. (2012) highlight a related issue that people engaging in multitasking on IM tend to believe that they perform better as compared to multitasking with a voice chat in fulfilling a visual task. A possible explanation is that the perceived control over the reaction upon IM might distort the impression of the own performance. Moreover, there seems to be a tendency that purely visual tasks are considered to be handled easily and therefore often used in the context of multitasking (Bowman et al., 2010).
1.1 Research problem
2 Theoretical Background
2.1 Teams, Virtual Teams and Virtuality in teams
2.2 CMC Theories
3 Literature Review and research model
3.1 Excursion: The market of Instant Messengers in Germany
3.2 Literature Review: Instant Messenger
3.3 Literature Review: Emoticons
3.4 Research model
4.1 Literature review
4.3 Measurement Model
4.4 Survey and data collection
5 Results and analysis
5.1 Descriptive statistics
5.2 PLS-Path model
6 Discussion and conclusion
6.3 Implications for research
6.4 Implications for managers
6.6 Future Research
7 References .
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