Who could have predicted the incredible effect of email on our daily work and personal lives 20+ years ago when it was introduced? Dictating to secretaries in the ’60’s and ’70’s (Madmen anyone?) and using dictaphones to compose a document someone else then types have virtually disappeared except in medical offices. Probably anyone in their 20’s and 30’s reading this may not have heard of a dictaphone.
Email is the accepted way of life these days and has dramatically changed the way we work. It has invaded our personal and work lives and is with us 24/7. Many of our clients are unhappy with the number of emails that pile up in their inbox daily and a few describe it as the bane of their existence. There are less face-to-face conversations which is too bad because they often spark ideas and promote communication with fellow-workers and clients. Colleagues and clients expect answers from their email immediately. There isn’t any time left over to think.
Author Phyllis Korkki who wrote the June 16,2013, New York Times article Messages Galore, But No Time To think blames our lack of thinking time on email interruptions. She suggests that companies set expectations around email for their employees. People can be more productive if they know if it is acceptable to turn off email to work on a project, the acceptable period of time before replying to an email, and where email should be saved.
All of these questions are perfectly acceptable to ask a manager. Do you know what your company policy is?
Everyone uses email these days but many people do not realize the common errors they make on a regular basis. Bill Husted in yesterday’s The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out three areas where we can all do a better job.
1) Responding to someone in the heat of the moment. There is no taking it back when you write an email when you are angry and hit the send button without waiting until you calm down. As Husted points out, “quick on the trigger” only makes a situation worse.
2) Reply to all — Be extra careful to reply only to the people who need to know. Even though an email has been sent to a number of other people, there is no reason to send your reply to everyone. Were you invited to a meeting? Reply only to the sender. The people in the group don’t care to know the details as to why someone can — or can not — attend a meeting.
3) Edit your emails — Spelling and grammatical mistakes are a poor reflection on the writer and send a negative message to the reader. The writer did not consider it important enough to re-read and edit the email. While expectations may not be as high as a written letter, it is still important to be as accurate as possible.
There is an exception, however, which is a reply from a phone. It is not always easy to use a small screen and letters so mistakes do happen.
Thanks, Mr. Husted, for your email etiquette suggestions. Do you have one that you would like to send us?