of mobile email users who mostly complain about the issue.
There is no clear evidence to conclude whether organizations should
be liable when their employees develop mobile email addiction and suffer
from related symptoms. As the society
and social norms change, so do the
laws. Currently, a number of BlackBerry addicts have already filed lawsuits against their employers; in some
cases, organizations decided to settle
out of court to avoid negative publicity. 6 Employers, therefore, should be
prepared for various scenarios.
In addition to legal issues, mobile
email addiction may potentially have
other negative consequences for organizations. It is reasonable to assume
that employees who are addicted to
their mobile email suffer from mood alterations, feelings of work overload, and
negative effects on their familial lives.
Thus, they may be likely to feel less satisfied with their jobs, and ultimately voluntarily leave their organizations. But
how prevalent is the mobile email addiction phenomenon? To what extent is
this addiction associated with voluntary
turnover intentions (intentions to look
for a job at a different company)?
To explore these issues, we surveyed 241 current mobile email users
from three North American organizations. The questionnaire asked users
19 questions about the frequency in
which they incur six technology addiction symptoms (based on the Internet Addiction Disorder Scale5, 11),
and four questions that measured
turnover intentions. The included
symptoms were: compromised social
quality of life due to overuse of mobile
email, compromised individual quality of life, compensatory usage (using
mobile email instead of doing other
things that need to be done), compromised career, compromised time control (using mobile email longer than
intended), and excitatory usage of mobile email (such as blocking disturbing
thoughts with thoughts about mobile
email). Reported frequencies ranged
from once a year or less to every day.
In order to assess the levels of addiction, two scenarios were developed.
Under the conservative scenario, it
was assumed that at least four out of
the six symptoms should be reported
with a high frequency of at least sev-
addiction may be
prevalent than other
if we follow the liberal
eral times a month. In this case, only
6.2% of the sample may be classified as
pathologically addicted. Under a more
liberal scenario, in which at least three
symptoms are needed with a moderate frequency of at least once a month,
17.4% of the sample may be considered
addicted. These results demonstrate
that some individuals, between 6% and
17%, may meet mobile email addiction
criteria. Furthermore, a correlation of
0.15 (significant at p<0.05) between the
addiction scores and turnover intentions was observed.
Taken together, these results demonstrate that mobile email addiction
may be a fairly common phenomenon,
and that it can be associated with negative organizational consequences such
as turnover. Should we be concerned?
These percentages can translate into
millions of users who present worrisome levels of mobile email addiction
disorder, or for those who oppose the
technology addiction concept, high
levels of mere technology overuse.
It is interesting to see how mobile
email addiction compares to other
technology addictions. Particularly,
does the ubiquity of mobile email
make it more addictive? While there
are no known comparable samples for
which we have technology addiction
scores, it has been reported that 13.7%
of Chinese adolescent Internet users
meet addiction criteria, 2 and that 7.5%
of a sample of teenagers has been diag-
nosed with severe psychological depen-
dency on the Internet. 8 The percentage
of mobile email addicts in our sample
is in line with technology addiction lev-
els reported in the studies mentioned
here. In fact, mobile email addiction
may be considered more prevalent
than other technology addictions if we
follow the liberal criteria scenario. Nev-
ertheless, because different measures
were used with different populations
and with different addiction-cutoff val-
ues, we cannot firmly conclude whether
the ubiquity of mobile email increases
its addictiveness compared to that of
other technologies, such as the Inter-
net. This important distinction war-
rants future studies.
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Ofir Turel ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate professor
of information systems and decision sciences at
california state university, fullerton.
Alexander Serenko ( email@example.com) is an
associate professor of mis at lakehead university in