Two times is enough! Rounds of Email Messages, That Is…
Frustrated that things are not progressing fast enough on an issue or project? Too many emails? Responses not fast enough, or worse, off the mark?
Here’s your solution: Pick up the phone!
I like to call this the two ’round rule. Once each person has sent his or her second clarifying email on the subject, it’s time to talk. Simple as that.
Let’s remember that the more email without actual conversation, the less real communication is happening. We lose up to 80% of our communicating effectiveness when we lose voice inflection and body language. So it is no surprise that the more back and forth emails, the more chance for misunderstanding or even anger to evolve.
Picking up the phone does several things:
1. It allows your tone of voice to accentuate the important points of your discussion
2. It allows more communication. We talk 4 times faster than we write, so we can convey more information in the same time that it takes to compose an email message.
3. You’ll actually accomplish something!
And I didn’t say that you had to even connect with the person, voice mail allows a better communication than an email.
So, next time your feel frustrated with email ping pong, let your fingers do the dialing!
Some business emailers may think they impress their bosses, peers or subordinates by sending emails in the middle of the night. The truth is, while occasional 3:00 AM e-mails may be “forgiven,” repeated early morning emails will NOT be.
Not convinced? Just turn the tables and note your reaction when you see the time stamp of a received email at some ungodly hour!
Your co-workers might say…
• There Avish goes again, trying to impress the boss. What a manipulator.
• No wonder Sally isn’t with it during the day. She’s not getting enough sleep.
• How can he be thinking clearly at 2:00 AM?
• Does this mean I have to get up and check my email, since Harry does it?
The boss could wonder…
• Why is Jim up at 4:00AM, regularly? Is he getting enough sleep? Is he in control? Is he stressed out? Is he out of balance?
• Is Rebecca just trying to impress me? Does she think that I value this behavior? Doesn’t she know how to delay the sending of the email to a “normal” hour?
• What part of “have a balanced life” doesn’t he understand?
And from your direct reports…
• Yikes. My boss is emailing me at 3:00 AM! I wonder if he expects me to do that too?!
• I better check my email first thing in the morning; the boss may have sent me something again in the middle of the night. How’s that for wake up stress?
• What’s the matter with her!? Is she losing it? Why can’t my boss get a good night’s sleep?
• Does this mean I need to have my blackberry wake me in the middle of the night?
• Since he’s working 24/7, I assume I should also. Gad, I hate my job.
In addition to these unhealthy perceptions, you’re taking a real risk creating an email message when you haven’t had a full night’s sleep. You may not be running on all cylinders. We’ve all regretted sending an email when we were wide-awake and functioning during the day. Sending in a sleepy state increases the potential for misconstrued messages.
If you are a true night owl or on the computer in the early AM, compose a message and save it. Don’t send it till you’ve had a chance to review it in the light of day. We can almost guarantee that you’ll make changes that you’ll be glad you had the opportunity to make.
Make it a rule to NEVER send an email message when you should be sleeping. Your career, your co-workers, and your employees will be all the better for it.
OK, so what do YOU really think of those who email in the very late hours???
Email is here to stay. It is very quickly becoming the primary communication tool in business. If you are looking to destroy your career through your e-mail practices, here are a few ways you can move the process along!
1. Send an angry email. Take out your frustration on your boss or your co-worker by email. Send your first draft without reviewing it. And don’t forget to copy at least ten people. This is a great way to have career limiting documentation easily placed in your file.
2. Waste peoples’ time. The more you annoy people by creating extra work through a myriad of bonehead maneuvers like sending unnecessary emails, forgetting attachments, and inserting HUGE graphics, the less they will think of your business communications skills.
3. Forward lengthy chain emails, saying “see below.” A great way to call attention to your lack of respect for the receiver is to forward an email that has at least 10 previously forwarded emails contained in it. This forces the recipient to have to read through all 10 to try to figure out what is important.
4. “Throw a co-worker under the bus” by email. When one of your co-workers makes a mistake, be sure to document it for posterity by email. Either call the co-worker out by email and copy his or her boss, or even better, do it behind their back. You’ll be labeled as a snake and end your career quite quickly.
5. Send poorly written emails. Use improper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Use run on sentences. Make sure you don’t use spell check. Anyone receiving you email messages will get a quick first impression that you’re not serious about your career.
6. Use text lingo in business emails. This will definitely show your maturity and lack of respect for the recipient. IYKWIM. LOL
7. Bury the point of your communication in the middle of the message. By making it very hard for people to find what it is you are trying to convey, you will be sure to make a name for yourself in all your business circles.
8. Reply All. All the time. Hitting “reply all” consistently will earn you great disrespect among your co-workers. As the resentment builds from all the unnecessary emails they receive from you, your career credibility is sure to wane.
9. Copy as many people as you can. By adding many extra recipients, you might think you’re communicating, but what you’re really doing is adding more work to peoples’ already full plates. They may not catch on to this one right away, but over time, you won’t be able to hide.
10. Gossip via email. Even though you think that your friend won’t rat you out over the gossip you sent – hey, it is a permanent record, and that “friend” could be as catty as you!
11. Put several names in the “To:” line. This is a great way to confuse people on who is expected to do what. By making unclear requests, you’ll help slow your career down because those around you aren’t sure who you are asking to do the assignment.
12. Write long and rambling emails. This is another great way to annoy those who can influence your career. When you write very long messages, people get frustrated, miss the point, and think you’re a jerk for sending such an epistle.
13. Send emails between 1am and 5am. This strategy is great for indirectly letting your boss and co-workers think that you’re not on all cylinders. Sleeplessness and worry are not valued in a business environment.
14. Send huge unnecessary attachments. Try to look important by attaching more information than is needed. Your co-workers won’t appreciate the size of the message coming into their inboxes or opening stuff that has no relevance to the issue being discussed.
15. Use email to “discuss” complex issues. If you want to get everyone going, send an email message to a large group and ask them to discuss a very detailed and multifaceted issue. Just watch the email threads expand! You’ll waste a lot of peoples’ time and have a real challenge amassing all the information..
16. Criticize your boss in an email. This is a good one. Email detailed descriptions of why you don’t like your boss to a trusted co-worker. You can bet that the email will make its way to the boss one way or another.,Just be ready for the most uncomfortable meeting of your life!
17. Send a lot of jokes. Even better, send dirty or ethnic jokes. These really waste everyone’s time and will land you in deep trouble. Just remember, once that email message is sent, there is no telling where it will show up.
18. Use company email for personal stuff. By knowingly violating the company policy on personal use of their systems, you can bring your career to a halt extremely fast.
19. Share company proprietary information by email. This is a quick way to get booted out the door. Send privileged client information or company secrets to an outsider and you can start that new job search sooner than you think.
20. Run a side business through your company email account. If you thought using company assets for your personal email would be a career killer, just try to run your cupcake baking business through your company email account. You’ll be baking cupcakes full time in no time!
Did we miss any? Share them here!
One of the expressions I use alot in the email messaging world is, “If there is ANY chance an email message might be misinterpreted, it will be!”
The times that folks have told me about email misunderstandings are countless. I’m sure you’ve had your share as well – both coming and going.
Here are some tips to deal with that hurtful or angering email you just received:
- Don’t overreact. Chances are, that message was not intended the way you interpreted it. When you overreact, it can sometimes muddy your thinking. This is the way misinterpretations escalate. So – keep your cool.
- Read it again. Now that you have not overreacted, go back and reread the message, putting yourself in the place of the writer. Thinking clearly, without clouding your interpretations with emotions can be very useful.
- Give the benefit of the doubt. Even if you have read the message several times, and it remains angering or hurtful, cut the sender a break.
- Get clarification. If none of the above is helping your situation, pursue clarification. Depending on the nature and degree of hurt, the best suggestion is to contact the person either by phone or in person, and without condemning, ask for simple clarification. Once again, this is where giving them the benefit of the doubt will be to your advantage. It is better to assume their intentions were to not be hurtful rather than to assume that they were. IF it is something quite simple, an email message asking for clarification, quoting the portion of the message that concerned you may be all that is needed – but, trust me, that may not end the controversy. The best clarification is a dialogue.
As mentioned previously, emotion and tone do not always carry over well in email. Instead of responding angrily in an email response, seek the win: win as soon as possible. Too much damage can be done by multiple emails firing back and forth, copying others and involving them in the controversy as well. And the best way to do this is with a personal visit or call – always.
Every time you let your email interrupt your productive work, it takes you an average of 4 minutes to get back on track. If in one day you let 15 emails derail you, you’ve just lost an hour of billable, productive time.
Multiply that by every employee every day and you can see how office-wide unproductive email use can be an enormous drain on your profits.
Have you ever stopped to examine how do your employees use their email? How do they manage it, send it, and save it? The habits they adopt, both good and bad, can be contagious. Since email touches all of us several times a day, an office email culture evolves quickly.
Here is an example. A boss calls a meeting with 3 of his department managers. He sends an urgent email, needing a response within 15 minutes. One manager, who is working on an important project, does not have his email on, misses the request, and angers his boss.
This manager has just now learned that he cannot turn off his email, ever. But it doesn’t stop there; it rolls down the corporate ladder. All three managers now have “permission” to use email as an URGENT delivery system. They use it in their departments, and very quickly, the entire organization is infected. No one can turn off his or her email for fear of missing something vital. Employees become slaves to the “ding” and stop productive work anytime an email comes in.
This is just one example of email mis-use that plagues businesses. Think of the practices of copying everyone under the sun, just so you don’t miss someone. Or how about using email as a chat room with multiple recipients to resolve dilemmas? Or the slippery slope of using email to critique someone’s performance? One person does it, others do it. Culture is changed.
There are, however, certain practices you can instill into your employees to create a positive email culture. It requires strong leadership and change management efforts, but by following these methods, you and your employees will be able to reclaim more time, and improve your bottom line:
- NEVER use email as an urgent delivery system. If the matter is urgent, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
- Have everyone turn off “Automatic Send/Receive” and set “Receive intervals” to a minimum of 90 minutes. If someone is expecting an email, he or she can always hit receive manually.
- Move everything OUT OF your inbox. Your employees can manage their work better by putting emails in appropriate folders for easy reference later.
- Make Subject Lines be VERY specific. By including details in subject lines, you will help others sort and prioritize their work.
- Copy only the people who REALLY need to receive the email. Each superfluous cc will have to open and read the email, adding unnecessary tasks to their already full days.
For more best practices, or information about changing your office’s email culture, check out our eBook “Reclaim Workplace Productivity; Add Big Bucks to Your Bottom Line.
Here are some of the most common email messaging mistakes, and how to avoid them. Some of the ways to avoid them are pretty obvious, otherwise, I’ve included suggestions on how to avoid them:
- Hitting the send button before the message is complete. Proofread before sending.
- Hitting the send button without attaching the referenced attachments. Proofread before sending.
- Copying too many extraneous people on a message. Send to ONLY those who really need to see the message.
- Having vague or general subject lines; the more specific the better. VERY specific is the best practice.
- Trying to have a discussion by e-mail with several people. If you need to have a discussion call a meeting, teleconference, or set up a chat room for everyone to participate.
- Poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Proofread before sending. Oh, and don’t forget spell check!
- Writing an e-mail message when you are emotional or angry. Don’t
- Crafting an e-mail message in the middle of the night, when you are not on all cylinders. It is much better to save it, and review it by the light of day before hitting the send button
Interestingly, most of these mistakes can be avoided by an added step of proofreading, and slowing down just a bit.
What do you think?
If you think there are no consequences of writing a ‘bad’ or ineffective email, think again…
I can think of several… Among the consequences of writing a “bad” or ineffective e-mail are:
- Productivity sapper: Multiple e-mails going back and forth, creating more work for not only others, but yourself, hence a productivity drain.
- Poor impressions: Poorly worded or crafted e-mail messages may cause others to judge your leadership or communication abilities.
- Lack of Control: Because e-mail messages are a permanent written record of your communication, once the e-mail is sent, you can no longer control who sees that message.
- Falling into the wrong hands: If the message is inappropriate or improper or just stupid, once it gets into the wrong hands there can be further complications.
- Career limiting: An accusatory or nasty e-mail can be career limiting, once again due to the fact that it is a written record and can fly through cyberspace.
Have any others? Please share!
There are alot of “never do’s” when it come to email, but here are my top five:
- Never throw anyone under the bus by e-mail, that is… don’t put criticisms in writing.
- Never try to provide helpful constructive feedback by e-mail — you can guarantee that it will be misinterpreted.
- Never use profanity, ethnic barbs, or sexist verbiage
- Never criticize the boss or the company by e-mail, even to your best friend — you never know where it could end up
- Never violate company policy regarding the use of e-mail. If policy states that you should not use company e-mail for personal use, don’t.
For other best practices, you might want to check out our prior post, Thirty Quick Email Etiquette Tips
Any other “nevers?” Please share!
I get this question alot… and frankly it baffles me that people even ask it.
The answer is:
It is extremely important that your e-mail correspondence at work is both professional and effective; frankly if those messages are not, it could be a career limiting behavior.
Managers and coworkers draw conclusions about your professionalism every time anything you do “touches” them, and e-mail provides more touches in a day than telephone or in person discussions. To use poor grammar, to ramble, to misspell, etc. provides a written documentation of your less than professional way of communicating. And even more, it is permanent!
Additionally, if people don’t like the way you communicate, you may lose credibility with those people who can impact your department’s or business’s success, thereby inhibiting your own success.
Best practice: proofread, proofread proofread. Then read it again before you send it. One last time!
Has business communication evolved to a more social activity? Is email headed down the same path as the hand-written letter? Is email dying? I say NO.
Recently, a Computerworld editorial piece suggested it might be time to wave goodbye to email as the core business and personal communication. To that writer, email’s central role in our daily lives has been pushed aside by the rapid growth of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter and by the increased use of collaboration tools like Microsoft SharePoint.
You can stop mourning because email isn’t going anywhere. Email will remain a primary communication tool in offices across the world, despite the increased integration between it and social media platforms.
With more people joining social networks (Facebook just hit the 600 million mark), online communities are used for personal communications and relationships more and more. The ease of posting a comment on a wall or discussion group keeps people in touch with their friends and networks and adds to the pleasure of their lives. Does this toll the death knell for email? Definitely not. In fact, the entry of social media as a personal communication medium may take some of the pressure off of business email, allowing it to be used in the way it works best – to communicate information and transact business swiftly, efficiently, and inexpensively.
Email is not going away.
Business relies on it, and business sure isn’t going away. The velocity of business transactions continues to soar. The speed of communication has advanced from days to hours to minutes to seconds. The ability to transmit documents across the world in seconds underscores email’s value to the business world.
Even though many communicate via social networks, the foundational medium for business communication will remain email. With workers spending the majority of their days conducting business, email as their primary communication tool will continue to grow. Social networks, while they no doubt have a place in business, will never be their main communication channel. Most of them rely on followers, friends, or links to enable interactions, requiring extra steps to enable communication. Additionally, email has stood the test of time, whereas some social networks have only a fleeting presence.
Yet with the ever-changing technological landscape, the use of email is bound to morph into ways we may not be able to predict. The presence of social networks will most likely impact this evolution. For instance, most social networking platforms allow members to receive messages from their site delivered to their email inboxes. When users opt for this, the volume of email entering their inboxes will (obviously) increase. The flow of these messages into email accounts will certainly make email more social, but workers will have to develop new habits to manage all of them.
The inevitable frustration following an overload of social networks into email systems will also be a challenge for many. Work/life balance and priority-setting issues are bound to grow as workers fall behind in handling all the messages delivered to their inboxes. Managers will have to stay on top of the trends in order to ensure that their workers stay on top of their work.
Due to the advent of social networking, separating business and social communication might actually be easier than before. It may evolve so that email will be used more and more for purely business reasons, while online social interactions will be reserved for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and whatever future iterations of these may come.
We do know is that the way people use email is bound to change. The sheer volume of email that the average worker receives will dictate different ways to manage and respond. We also know that businesses rely on email. Business is not going away and neither is email. The future use of email remains to be seen, but we can at least see where it’s going. Email is not dying, so instead of wishing it an “R.I.P.,” remember that email is still a WIP, a work in progress that’s evolving alongside our other communication tools.
What do YOU think?