Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ID photos attached to emails - yes, please!

At my workplace we use Microsoft Outlook. Recently we upgraded to a version that can attach your photo to your emails as a kind of visual signature. All staff have been encouraged to voluntarily submit a head shot that will be uploaded to the system in the next several weeks.

This is a wonderful idea for people who have trouble remembering names and for people with prosopagnosia or face blindness. When you consider that one out of every 50 people has some degree of face blindness, you might imagine what portion of the population struggles to remember what our own daily co-workers look like. Imagine how embarrassing and awkward it is to end a meeting with people I work with regularly, and have to ask someone later, "Who was that who I promised to send our PowerPoint to?" Learning faces takes repeated effort for those of us with face blindness, but if everyone's photos were attached to every email, we'd have a much better chance of avoiding such uncomfortable situations. Those who have trouble remembering names, which is a much more common problem, would also benefit greatly. How wonderful if we could all practice remembering each other's names and faces with each email exchange!

But many of my co-workers don't like the idea of having their photo attached to their emails, even though they can choose, edit or photo shop the exact photo themselves. One reason I've heard is that it feels like an invasion of privacy. I don't understand this because only staff will be able to see these photos on our internal Outlook system: our photos won't be visible on any email that goes outside the organization.

Another reason people resist is that they just don't like the way they look in photos, which is very common, human and understandable. Some people just dislike all photos of themselves and avoid having pictures taken at all.

I would plead with anyone who doesn't want their photo attached to their emails -- whatever the reason -- to please consider how much easier this would make our lives. Many times people in our 500-plus organization email each other back and forth, with no idea of who exactly they're dealing with. Then when we we end up in a meeting together or a special event, we feel stiff and unfamiliar with each other, as if in a roomful of strangers. It's sad to feel that way about co-workers with whom we might be quite familiar on the phone or online.

Imagine how convenient it would be if someone who hadn't responded to emails or voicemails stepped onto the same elevator as you and you could say, "Hey, I've been trying to reach you!" That's not possible if you've never laid eyes on her (unless she's wearing a visible badge, which many of us don't).

Knowing our co-workers by face and name makes an organization more efficient as well as more social. Work feels like a friendlier place if you can greet people with genuine recognition and hear them say your name. There's just no good reason to resist a strategy that would help make a workplace more efficient and feel more familiar and pleasant.

To those who hate photos of themselves I plead: for the sake of more efficient interactions with your co-workers and a friendlier workplace, please let your head shot be attached to your emails (again: only staff will see them, not the outside world!). Those of us who need lots of help with faces and names will be very grateful.


Mick said...

Have to agree with you on this one, can't really see why people don't want to.
Funny thing is i bet a large percentage of those that object are on a social networking site such as facebook and post their pics all over the internet, lol

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Mick - I'm learning that those who resist posting photos of themselves cannot be convinced and there's no point in trying. So I'm just hoping to influence those who are more indifferent to this issue and don't feel as strongly about it. Many just don't feel it's worth the time to post their photos, but it is! It is!