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Use email for "perception management" at work

(MoneyWatch) A few weeks ago, I explained why science says that telecommuters are less likely to get a raise at review time. It all hinges on something that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology call "passive face time," which is a measure of being observed at work (but not necessarily if you're actually accomplishing anything). Here's the interesting part: Passive face time doesn't have to happen in person in the office. You can get credit for passive face time just by using email in your off hours.

And that leaves room to effectively game the system. I certainly don't recommend fiddling around in ethical gray areas, but Forbes has an interesting -- and entertaining -- article that lists various ways to fiddle with people's perceptions of your work and availability.

I suppose that you might consider some of the recommendations in this article as a fair turn for the always-connected, always-available mindset of many companies today. For example:

Show you're engaged by choosing a single, high-profile email with a lot of recipients and respond to it. You can then safely ignore the rest till morning.

Send lot of short emails, especially using a scheduled auto-mailer when you are out of the office or on vacation.

If you want to give the impression you're at work, remove the "sent from my mobile" auto-signature from your phone.

If you want to reduce email traffic after hours, use a signature that emphasizes that people should call you for responses. People are less likely to pick up the phone unless it's a true emergency.

Use Twitter as if you're busy working on the weekend, even if you aren't. A tweet like, "Reading status reports is always better while watching the game" at least creates the impression of someone who goes above and beyond.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Augaphel

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