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Workplace email language predicts if they are sent up/down the ladder

Washington, Wed, 15 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb 15 (ANI): Certain words and phrases are certainly reliable indicators of whether workplace emails are sent to someone higher or lower in the corporate hierarchy, a new study has revealed.


Members of the modern workforce might be surprised to learn that if they use the word 'weekend' in a workplace email, chances are they're sending the message up the org chart. Likewise the words "voicemail," "driving," "okay"-and even a choice four-letter word that rhymes with "hit."


Georgia Tech's Eric Gilbert, assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing, focused his attention on the "Enron corpus," a body of 500,000 emails among about 150 former Enron employees, making it the largest email dataset available for public study.


Even after taking a "conservative, careful" approach-applying numerous filters and eliminating thousands of emails that would have muddied his conclusions-he still was able to identify lists of words that reliably predicted whether emails travelled up or down the ladder.


"Across a wide variety of messages and relationships, these phrases consistently stand out as signaling a power relationship between two people," Gilbert said.


"The probability of it occurring due to chance alone is less than 1 in 1,000."


Primarily Gilbert's work could be applied in designing "smarter" email software.


Future email clients, he said, might be able to differentiate between emails sent from superiors or subordinates, and then use that information to better address someone's email preferences.


Post-5 p.m. messages from people under you, for example, might get held for delivery until the next day, while emails from the boss-or the boss' assistant-could go right through.


"We have organizational charts, but they don't tell the whole story," said Gilbert, adding that the research could help map "informal power and reporting structures" in an organization.


"A classic example is the CEO's administrative assistant: That person may not occupy a high box on the org chart, but he or she still has a large amount of influence."


Top 5 Upward Predictors


the ability to


I took


are available




thought you would


Top 5 Downward Predictors


have you been


you gave


we are in




need in (ANI)


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