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Top Email Communication Don’ts

 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by someone adding tone to your email for you. Keep your hand up if you’ve ever spent over 15 minutes deciphering the hellish mess of an email that your colleague sent you. The minutia and mess of an overflowing inbox that is constantly pinging with new messages and need constant upkeep is a productivity killer that takes up 23% of an employees day to manage and work through, thus, increasing stress levels and reducing the amount of actual work that can be done in a day. The average office worker receives about 90 emails a day, and the number of emails sent throughout the day globally isn’t slowing down, sitting at a staggering 269 billion sent per day today. So while we can’t just say no to email (although, wouldn’t that be lovely?) here is what we can say no to- committing the most aggravating email pet peeves known to woman that add to the annoyance and frustration of emails.

 

  1. Never adding a greeting. Remember the rules of basic communication, you wouldn’t walk up to someone and immediately dive into what you need from them without saying ‘hi’ first, right? So don’t do it when starting off a fresh email conversation. It is a simple nod to basic human politeness to start off a communication with greeting and can help change the potential tone of the recipient. A simple and standard greeting of “hi” or “hello” is all you really need, and you can even set your email settings to include a greeting automatically so you never forget.
  2. Throwing around blame. Just like in verbal assertive communication, throwing blame around doesn’t work, and especially since you’re delivering it in written format, everyone adds their own tone and own spin on what you really meant. Even if you are being honest and direct about the tough situation at hand, nothing ever comes across the right way in email, instead of saying “Phil told me wrong” (especially when, ya know, Phil is in the email chain) rephrase the blame to be “There was a miscommunication initially” and work to fix the problem. If clarity on whose fault it was is needed, get up from your desk and have a real conversation.
  3. Using reply all like your life depends on it.I’ve lost count of how many pointless and unneeded emails I’ve received that were a dreaded result of the damn ‘reply all’ button. Before hitting ‘reply all’ really think if everyone CC’d on that chain needs to know what you’re saying. Does your boss and six of your teammates need to know you said ‘thank you’ to someone for giving you the requested information? Probably not, so don’t clog up their already bursting inboxes with one more email.
  4. Writing novels in order to prove a point or give information in the email. We all already attend way too many meetings and get too many emails. Be considerate of everyone’s time and operate by my rule of ‘don’t assume they know nothing but know that they don’t know everything”. Provide some high-level key information necessary for context, and if more detail is needed, the recipient will let you know.
  5. Burying the lead. Start off your email with the answer to the given question, or the action that needs taken by the recipients, and then provide the context and supporting facts (remembering point #4 above when doing this). Why? Because like #4 not everyone has time to read through everything and digest all information, some of us just need to know the answer and either don’t need, or care about, your reasoning behind it. Give us the answer, then tell us why afterward so we can decide if we need to know the rest.
  6. Adding your own tone and attitude into an email someone else sent. The chances are that the woman (or man) on the other end of the email wasn’t pissy or being rude when she typed the email and was probably just using proper punctuation, being direct, and avoiding adding emojis (because we don’t need to smile more in person of in email) so stop taking offense and adding your own anger and annoyance to the email for her, and take it at face value. If there comes an email where you truly feel was out of line or rude even after you checked yourself, go speak to her and ask if something is wrong or if she meant what was interpreted. Human connection is key in these kinds of situations, so don’t add to her potentially pissiness by shooting of a rude email back to her to tell her how rude you think she was being.
  7. Not following up when you’re the one needing information. Point blank, it is not the job of the person giving you information to follow up with you later to ask if it was enough or what you needed, it is your job to communicate if the information worked for you or not, so stop putting the onus on them to figure out if you liked or disliked what they had to say. Tell them ASAP if the information is good or not, and then clearly explain again what you need from them to avoid another miscommunication and slew of emails.
  8. Sending an email on a subject that is convoluted and warrants a real conversation. If the subject matter requires more detailed explanation or is hard to communicate via writing (quick tip: if you are having trouble writing the email clearly, chances are you should just go talk to them in person), don’t send out an email on it. Instead try to book a quick meeting to lay the groundwork for what the subject and issue are and then offer to send a follow up email on the topic to continue the conversation. 100% of the time when I am involved in an email chain that has more than one comment of “I’m confused” or “I’m not sure how to convey this via email” I see a meeting invite pop into my inbox quickly. Save the time and energy and ask for 15 minutes of folks time to cover the topic (and always include a meeting agenda in the invite).
  9. Sending emails like they are IMs. Not everyone knows this, but you can ask more than one question in a single email and talk about more than one thing in the same chain. Crazy, right? Be sure to consolidate as many thoughts into one email as possible to avoid stressing someone out when they check their inbox and see double-digits in their unread folder from you.
  10. Marking non-urgent emails as urgent. If your email can wait a few hours or even 24 hours to be taken care of, then don’t hit that bright red exclamation point when sending it. Use the high importance indicator carefully and only in real situations that warrant an emergency ‘drop everything right now and read this” or else you risk being the woman who cried wolf and aggravating colleagues with your not-actually-urgent urgent emails.

 

 

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