21 Sept 2007


Do you think of emails as fun, an indispensable work tool, or possibly the most onerous, insidious waste of time ever devised? (Actually that honor might go to social networking hubs like Linked In … depending on who you ask).

Instead of making life simpler, email now means overflowing inboxes, competing priorities, and irrelevant rubbish. Don’t even get me started on spam. Worst of all it’s abused as one of the greatest CYA (cover your ass) workplace strategies ever.

Phrases like “I copied you in on that” make my blood boil some days. Nine times out of ten, it’s abused and the sender is either downright rude, lazy or both.

If something is so important, send an email. But don’t just cc someone just so they can be made ‘aware’. I perceive this as a ‘tier one CYA strategy’. My inner cynic thinks the sender merely wants an email ‘paper trail’.

However, people who live in glass houses, probably shouldn’t throw too many stones. I confess to having emailed colleagues who sit just meters away.

But before you hit the send button next time, have a little consideration for the recipient.

Ask yourself:

 Do they need or want to know this information?

 How relevant is it to them, and who will benefit from receiving it?

 Can I tell them another way? Phone and face to face communication are still ranked number one. But alternatives like an SMS might also be appropriate and appreciated.

 If you have to put in an email, keep it short and sweet. Use bullet points and make it digestible. Afterall, doesn’t it pay to keep your audience in mind?



Unknown said...

Soooo true...

Anonymous said...

Not that I want to defend the tendencies of large corporations to over-email for political reasons but isn't it too easy to lambaste email just because we receive too many of them.

Email is an easy target and we tend to forget that it has in fact revolutionized how we work today.

Nobody bats an eyelid if they're on the phone to someone 10,000 kilometres away and sends them a file to open so that they can continue a phone conversation and add meaning to it so that both can see the same document at the same time. This is an incredible development. The fax machine was the method before and that was very slow and very clunky in comparison.

Email is a phenomenally powerful communications tool - we just need to learn how to use it in the right way. Not everyone has figured out the rules yet.

We should also remember that it's only been around mainstream Western society for the last 10 - 15 years. Its actually a pretty young tool.