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Understanding e‐mail overload

R. Vidgen (School of Information Systems, Technology and Management, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
J. Sims (Bath Spa University, Bath, UK)
P. Powell (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 15 February 2011




This paper seeks to investigate the impact of e‐mail on individuals and organizations and to provide a framework that frames e‐mail management as a complex and multi‐stranded issue.


The paper employs a multi‐dimensional appraisal of e‐mail use in organisations and introduces a management framework as a practical tool to enact change and organisational learning. The approach uses Lee's five central concepts for understanding hermeneutics: distanciation; autonomization; appropriation; social construction; and enactment, applying these to the problem of e‐mail overload.


This paper contributes to the theoretical understanding of e‐mail use in organisations, and develops a practitioner toolkit for enacting change in e‐mail use. This work uses hermeneutics and an interpretive framework to investigate the impact of e‐mail on organisations, employing concepts from Ricoeur, Gadamer, Habermas, and Klein.

Research limitations/implications

Future research could evaluate the effectiveness of e‐mail performance improvement programmes using a mix of research methods including surveys of e‐mail attitudes and analysis of e‐mail readability and language analysis.

Practical implications

The paper introduces an e‐mail management framework that is a practical tool that can be used to enact change and organisational learning

Social implications

Implementation could lead to improved communication; improved visibility of the informal organizational network, knowledge sharing, and action network; business process improvement; improved knowledge management; and increased employee morale.


The paper shows how actors may choose to enact emancipation from e‐mail oppression by taking deliberate action to reconstruct the environment in which they exist in an inquiry‐change cycle of organisational learning by implementing an e‐mail management framework.



Vidgen, R., Sims, J. and Powell, P. (2011), "Understanding e‐mail overload", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 84-98.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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