iBusiness, 2011, 3, 49-52
doi:10.4236/ib.2011.31008 Published Online March 2011 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ib)
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. iB
An Investigation and Analysis of Information
Overload in Manager’s Work
Tao Li 1, Min Li 2
1Department of Social Science, Air Force College in Xuzhou, Xuzhou, China; 2School of Economics and Management, Nanjing
University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing, China.
Email: f22xz@sohu.com.
Received November 6th, 2010; revised December 23rd, 2010; accepted December 28th, 2010.
The problem of information overload in management field has been receiving increasing attention, while there are less
empirical researches now. This paper proposes a conceptual model and some operational variables, in which informa-
tion overload is as an interven ing va riab le between th e facto rs of cau ses an d impa cts. An in vestiga tion and analysis has
been conducted from a selected sample of managers. This research suggests that work efficiency and work quality are
both not strongly connected with information overload. We also find that the main causes of information overload are
the work interrup tion and work time pressure but the amount o f information.
Keywords: Info rmat i on Overload, Investigation, Analysis, Ma nagers Work
1. Introduction
Information overload is at first a term popularized by
Alvin Toffler that refers to the difficulty a person can
have understanding an issue and making decisions that
can be caused by the presence of too much information.
Alvin Toffler cautioned us and pointed to research on
information overload on human behavior [1]. The
studies of information overload begun from the early
days of century twenty and increased from 1960’s.
More recently, the topic has been linked with the rapid
development of the Internet usage and the information
explosion in the amount of data.
Although the information overload is being focused in
management circle and other fields, therefore, up to now,
mainly researches of information overload are common-
sense assumptions, such as Klapp’s work [2]. Most of
researchers stress a negative phenomenon that should
suppress or eliminated. The developments to deal with
performance of computer tools to deal with performance
problems supposedly caused by information overload has
been a common subject in management field, yet careful
research investigations of issues related to information
overload have been limited.
The authors provide here an overview of information
overload and its causes, from a work process centered
point of view, by summarizing previous research find-
ings through a concept causal model. This research then
investigates the model to discuss the factors which may
give rise to information overload, and the impacts of in-
formation overload on work efficiency and quality.
2. The Causes and Impacts of Information
2.1. The Concept of Information Overload
In ordinary language, the term information overload is
often used to convey the simple notion of receiving too
much information. Within the research community, this
everyday use of the term has led to various synonyms,
and related terms, such as cognitive overload, sensory
overload, communication overload, and knowledge
overload information which brings out the fatigue
syndrome [3]. These constructs have been applied to a
variety of situations, ranging from business consulting,
management meetings and the related contexts, in which
information overload has been discussed in much
management-related academic literature [4]. In the
organizational context, frequently the described symp-
toms of information overload on the individual level are
a general lack of perspective, cognitive strain and stress,
lower job satisfaction, and the inability to use infor-
mation to make a suitable decision [5]. The authors in
this study hold that information overload refers to the
phenomena of anxiety and fatigue, while the information
over the individual capability to deal with.
An Investigation and Analysis of Information Overload in Manager’s Work
2.2. Causes of Information Overload
Some researchers hold that there are several variables
involved from a work process-centered view. Informa-
tion overload depends on the nature of work accom-
plished through a process and one of the most important
being the work complexity in Casey’s study [6]. Some
researcher focus on the reason in the succession process,
Schneider once points out that the information overload
comes from interruption [7]. Information overload seems
definitely connected with the amount and nature of
knowledge and skills which are possessed by processing
speed and quality and therefore they influence informa-
tion overload. Apart from the work factors, some studies
show that the person and his or her attitude, qualification,
and experience are another important factor. While ear-
lier studies simply state that a person’s capacity to proc-
ess information is limited, more recent studies include
specific limiting factors such as personal skills. The level
of knowledge and skill coming form experience and per-
sonal traits thus directly affects the capacity to receive
information [8]. On the other hand, the decision style of a
team member can affect how efficiently information is
processed in Glazer's point of view [9].
2.3. Impacts of Information Overload
The explosive development of information and related
communication technologies has brought into focus the
problems of information overload. People find it ever
more difficult to cope with more information they re-
ceive, and increasingly unpredictable side-effects of their
actions. The longer people are subjected to information
overload, the more negative its effects on physical and
mental well-being. A world-wide survey found that two
thirds of managers suffer from increased tension and one
third from ill health because of information overload.
Many academics, corporate decision-makers, and pol-
icy-makers have realized the magnitude and growing
impact of the phenomenon of information overload. Most
of study stresses a negative phenomenon that should be
hold back or eliminated [10]. A task accomplished
through a process is affected by the information overload
experienced by process team member. Meglio believes
that the concentration and speed should be influenced by
information overload and lead to negative results [11],
and information overload is surely an unfavorable factor
of both work efficiency and quality.
2.4. Conceptual Model
Based on the above-mentioned discussions, for our part,
information overload means the phenomena of sick and
psychological anxiety when information over the capac-
ity of individual process. In view of individual and work
dimensions which cause the information overload, Fig-
ure 1 gives a causal model that integrates individual and
work factors affecting information overload, and de-
scribes its impact on work efficiency and quality. This
conceptual model incorporates the process assumptions
and information overload views while the variable in-
formation overload acts as an intervening variable that
mediates the influence of individual and work-related
variables on work efficiency and work quality. Accord-
ingly, it can be investigated that which factors cause the
information overload and, does information overload
significantly affect work efficiency and work quality?
3. Data and Method
This study was base on qualitative and quantitative re-
search data collected from a sample of twenty nine of a
managers training class. All people who were asked to
answer a questionnaire designed by us in the sample have
worked at least for over five years with management oc-
cupation, which could depict the common trait in the
work process.
The data collection instrument was designed to include
measures for each of the factors discussed in Figure 1, as
well as open-ended questions in which the respondents
have been asked. Enough indications and time should be
prepared before the questionnaires are filled in.
The first three factors, Knowledge and skill, Decision
Knowledge and skill
Decision style
Information amount
Work complexity
Work time pressure
Information overload
Work efficiency
Work quality
Figure 1. Causes and impacts of Information overload.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. iB
An Investigation and Analysis of Information Overload in Manager’s Work 51
Table 1. Respondents’ trade distribution.
Trade Respondents
Financial 6
Education 7
Energy 2
Transportation 2
Construction 3
Communication 4
Storage 3
Others 2
Total 29
amount, Decision scope belong to the individual aspect.
Paper read, Paper written, Web info absorbing, Web info
transmitting, Work scope, Work interruption, Work time
pressure belong to work aspect. Knowledge and skill
refers to formal training days in one year. Decision
amount and Work interruption mean the related times
which happen in a work day. Paper read, Paper written,
Web info absorbing and Web info transmitting are sur-
veyed based on average pages in a work day. Information
overload refers to the degree of individual perception.
Based on the different factors, two kinds of measure-
ment are given. Decision scope, Decision scope, Work
time pressure, Information overload, work efficiency and
work quality, the six survey items were measured along a
ve-point Likert usage scale.
The questionnaire data were analyzed with the aim of
establishing the existence and comparative strength of
links between individual and work factors and perceived
information overload, as well as between perceived in-
formation overload and its impact on work efficiency and
work quality. This was attained by the calculation of both
descriptive statistics for each of the measurement items,
and the Spearman correlation coefficient. The data were
analyzed by SPSS.
4. Results and Analysis
The correlation coefficients measure the relationship
between different variables through degree of the asso-
ciation which this research investigated. The result can
be found in line twelfth and line thirteenth in Table 2 that
Spearman correlation coefficients are 0.16 and 0.21
between perceived information overload and its impacts
on work efficiency and work quality. This result means
there is no statistical significance of the test has been
affected. Yet both in line eleventh, the result can be
found the statistical significance have been tested be-
tween the information overload with the work time pres-
sure rs = 0.82, P < 0.01, and with the work interruption rs
= 0.65, P < 0.01. Apart from the two items, there is no
other factor has strong relation with information overload
in our investigation.
5. Conclusions
The results and analysis suggest a negative answer to
Table 2. Descriptive statistics for measurement factors.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
1 Knowledge and skill 1
2 Decision amount 0.22 1
3 Decision scope 0.06 0.31 1
4 Paper read 0.24 0.33 0.27 1 rs
5 Paper written 0.32 0.19 0.25 0.69* 1
6 Web info absorbing 0.26 0.59*0.12 0.27 0.13 1
7 Web info transmitting 0.19 0.43 0.10 0.35 0.30 0.53* 1
8 Work scope 0.05 0.35 0.21 0.18 0.26 0.35 0.41 1
9 Work interruption 0.08 0.21 0.17 0.29 0.23 0.32 0.43 0.52* 1
10Work time pressure 0.43 0.32 0.12 0.24 0.22 0.29 0.21 0.43 0.49* 1
11Information overload 0.31 0.28 0.14 0.12 0.23 0.18 0.26 0. 14 0.65* 0.82* 1
12Work efficiency 0.16 0.29 0.33 0.10 0.14 0.06 0.22 0.26 0.28 0.56* 0.16 1
13Work quality 0.61
* 0.17 0.31 0.09 0.18 0.03 0.07 0.28 0.11 0.33 0.21 0.24 1
Standard deviation 11.8 18.7 1.2 15.8 2.6 36.5 11.3 0.9 14.2 1.2 1.3 1.1 1.3
Median 18.0 4.0 3.0 10.0 2.0 30.0 8.0 2.0 10.0 2.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Mean 12.7 10.5 2.3 18.1 3.1 68.7 4.9 2.7 12.4 2.8 2.6 2.2 1.9
Minimum 3.0 2.0 1.0 2.0 0.0 2.0 1.0 1.0 4.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0
Maximum 30.0 50.0 4.0 100.0 50.0 150.0 50.0 4.0 50.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0
N = 29* : P < 0.01two-tailed test
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. iB
An Investigation and Analysis of Information Overload in Manager’s Work
some previous investigation around which this research
was carried out [12]. Our results have shown no signifi-
cant correlation between information overload with work
efficiency and work quality. That is to say, our investiga-
tion data supports the conclusion that there is no obvious
relationship between information overload and the effi-
ciency or quality of works. As for the cause of informa-
tion mainly comes from the work time pressure which
lead to people perceptual information overload. The sec-
ond cause of information overload perhaps comes from
work interruptions. The amount of information could not
give rise to information overload individually. And
therefore, it should be considered within a time frame
when the researcher investigates and analyses the infor-
mation phenomena.
The results in this paper maybe help us to understand
that there are adjustability and complexity in human
adoption in confronting more information amount which
can change according the human learning capacity,
working team and work scope. Reasonable information
overload is not necessarily unhelpful to most tasks. In
some context, information overload will not definitely
decrease work performance, but in the other way round,
increase it. The findings above offer the basis for a new
framework to understand the information overload phe-
nomenon. This research provides the findings base on
study data collected from a relatively small sample base.
Thus, a suggestion for future research is to simple in-
crease the size of sample of individuals researched.
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