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Step Away from the Email!

For most of us, we are inundated with emails every day. I have heard the horror stories of inbox’s filled with hundreds if not thousands of unread emails. There is obviously no chance that these emails will get read and responded to, least of all not in a timely fashion. If there was anything of any importance in there it will surely get missed. If you are like me, from time to time, you may be guilty of sending emails when a phone conversation or an in person meeting would be more appropriate.

Worse yet, we have all worked with the co-worker who lives and dies by email. You know the ones I am talking about – they simply refuse to have any type of human contact so they live through email. If you ARE able to talk to them, they always reply with a, “send me an email” type of response, probably as a CYA measure. Either way, it perpetuates the email cycle.
I have worked hard over the years on trying to get better at not sending emails when other means of communication would be more appropriate. I once had a Director that I worked for tell me, “Scott, if you can’t say it in one to two paragraphs (of 2-3 sentences), than an email isn’t appropriate.” In most cases, I think she was/is right!

Step away!To that extent, I wanted to share some guidelines that I think will help you and your co-workers in reducing the amount of email traffic you experience. So without further ado, you need to step away from the email:

1. If the email you are sending requires a decision (from the recipient) and it isn’t a simple YES or NO response/decision, than do not send the email – go and speak with the person. In other words, if you need to include a whole bunch of information and caveats in the email in order to elicit the decision, than a face to face is warranted.
2. If you are providing advice or coaching to an employee, it is never appropriate to do so via email – go and talk to them! This is your job as a manager!
3. Worse yet, if you are providing constructive criticism or even progressive discipline, it is NEVER appropriate to do so via email as the first step communication. Again, go and TALK to your employee.
4. If you are sending an FYI type email and the recipient needs to be aware of multiple “FYI’s”, than that communication is better suited to a face to face meeting or a phone call initially.
5. If you responding more than twice to a string of emails, than it is time for a face to face meeting or a phone call regarding the subject matter.
6. If you find you are becoming emotional in the tone of your email (initiated or response) than it is time for a face to face/phone call. Emails should mostly be tone neutral and fact driven – not emotional responses or as a means to vent.
7. If you are struggling to build your personal network at work and/or with getting buy-in on your projects and initiatives, then stop sending emails. Start scheduling meetings (in person or web based) to provide an overview and gain commitment. Relationships are built verbally, not with email.
8. If something requires immediate action, than an email is not appropriate. It is not conducive to building positive workplace relationships by sending an email that requires an immediate response or action. Remember, your co-workers have other priorities, meetings, etc. other than what you need them to respond to!
9. If you are requiring time sensitive input from multiple people, than a meeting or conference call may be a better alternative. If you do send an email initially, but find yourself needing to clarify or provide more information to the group, than stop sending more emails – schedule a conference call!
10. My personal favourite – if you DO have a conversation with someone and they ask you to “send them an email” about it afterwards – don’t. This perpetuates the email issue. The person is asking you to do this because:

a. They weren’t really listening or taking any notes during your face to face meeting – it isn’t your job to be their admin. assistant.
b. You have a culture of CYA – if you are a manager, leader or HR Pro in this company, it is up to you to work on improving this type of culture where email is used as an insurance policy or get out of jail free card!

I am sure I have missed many other scenarios but these are my Top 10 reasons for when you need to step away from email. What about you? Do you have any others to add to this list? Let’s work on reducing our email traffic! As always, I would love to hear your feedback.

Image courtesy of njaj/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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