There’s no question that the advent of email has infused office communication with efficiency and has now reached the point where it’s our most used workplace tool.
Along the way, however, many employees have developed the email equivalent of bad table manners. If you fall into this category, commit to making 2015 the year that you turn over a new email leaf.
Top 10 Email Infractions
The New Year is an ideal time for some tough email love. Be honest – are you guilty of any or all of the following top 10 email infractions?
Taking your sweet time – Emails are not fine wines that improve with age, so taking your sweet time to respond is not only rude, but also remove the element of efficiency. While instantaneous responses aren’t expected, the goal – whenever possible – should be to reply within the same day that an email is received.
Failing to respond at all – Consider this scenario: You’re talking face-to-face with a coworker to whom you pose a question. Said colleague then proceeds to simply walk away. When you fail to respond to an email, you are essentially doing the same thing. If you don’t have the information requested in the email – or if you’re too swamped to respond in a timely manner – at least quickly acknowledge receipt of the email and inform the sender that you’ll reply as soon as possible.
Being a subject-line slacker – Subject lines actually matter. Not only do they serve to encapsulate the topic at hand, but they also serve a search function. Consequently, subject lines should not be vague – e.g., “Question” – or flippant, e.g., “What’s shakin’ bacon?” Another no-no is not changing the subject line when the subject of the e-conversation changes, as it often does over the course of extended email threads.
Ignoring the subject line – On the subject of subject lines, another email faux pas is not bothering to read the subject line. Email senders often include pertinent information – such as the time and date of a meeting – in the subject line. If that’s the case, it’s extremely annoying to receive a response along the lines of – “So, have you scheduled the meeting?” – When that information is clearly bill boarded in the subject line.
Having the attention span of a small child – Emails are meant to be read in their entirety. It is thus irksome when it becomes abundantly clear that the recipient of your email is so easily distracted that he or she can’t muster the attention span needed to read beyond an email’s first sentence. If an email covers several issues, take the time to address all topics raised. Don’t force the sender to circle back repeatedly due to your inability to read an entire email.
Writing the War and Peace of emails – Emails are a two-way digital street, meaning – if you want them to be read from top to bottom – don’t write as if you’re being paid by the word. In fact, you should approach email composition from the opposite perspective by pretending that you’re being charged for every word typed out. While it’s acceptable to cover more than one subject, do so in as concise a manner as possible and make the recipient’s job easier by using bullet points as appropriate.
Designating every email as urgent – Just as in Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf, if you designate every email as “urgent,” when a truly urgent situation arises – it’s more than likely that your recipients won’t pay attention. Additionally, if a legitimately urgent matter is unfolding, it may be time to tap that seemingly antiquated office tool known as a telephone, or to engage in that office rarity – a face-to-face conversation.
Copying coworkers with abandon – When it comes to emails, that timeworn adage – “the more the merrier” – does not apply. Emails are not an open party; to the contrary, their distribution should be guided by the phrase “on a need to know basis.” Not only do you not want to waste your coworkers’ time with unnecessary e-correspondence, but emails with more than a handful of recipients become unmanageable and thus counterproductive.
Clicking “reply all” unthinkingly – Just as you shouldn’t copy coworkers willy-nilly, you similarly shouldn’t automatically click “reply all.” This should be a conscious, thoughtful process; review the recipient list and carefully determine who needs to be kept in the proverbial loop and who doesn’t. Unthinkingly hitting “reply all” also can lead to the widespread distribution of embarrassing/potentially-termination-worthy emails, so think before you send.
Creating TMI email signatures – Email signatures are a useful business tool that can impart pertinent information such as job titles, phone numbers, and website addresses. Email signatures, however, should not be mistaken for one’s memoir replete with photos, a smorgasbord of social-media platforms, endorsements, accolades, personal mottos, and any manner of additional data that falls into the too-much-information category.