Did you know that an estimated 247 billion emails are sent each day?  Amazing.

Of all the emails flooding YOUR inbox, how many are missing critical information, border on boorish, or require a response in order to understand what the sender wants? Stop the madness!

Less than 20 years ago, when modems were dialing up at a rate of 28.8, email simply wasn’t practical way to deliver information.

But that quickly changed. And while email is now a fast and easy way to communicate, in many ways, it has become an ineffective method to deliver information, primarily because it is overused and misused. It’s time to rid yourself and your team members of some email don’ts.

#1:  Don’t overlook the subject line.

Let’s face it: besides the name of the sender, the subject line may be the deciding factor on whether anyone even reads your email. Make it appropriate and specific. Don’t write something generic like “Today’s Meeting.” Instead, use a call to action such as, “Please review attached agenda for today’s meeting” or “Three Decisions We Need to Make Today.”

#2:  Don’t use email for a conversation.

Have you ever gotten an open-ended email that said something like “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?”
Email works well when you need to deliver or push out information. It can help people make decisions. But email is NOT an effective platform for holding back-and-forth dialogue.  That’s better done in person, on the phone or with instant messaging if you’re in need of a quick fact or straight-forward opinion.

#3:  Don’t use email to issue ultimatums, challenges, or threats.

If you’re listening to this tip and going “Oops,” you’ve probably missed the mandatory non-harassment training–for the last 10 years or so.
Email is one of the worst and most risky way to exert power or intimidate people It leaves a permanent trial, which when you’re angry, can be devastating to your career. An email is never truly deleted. You will not reach your goals if you’re sending emails with threats as attachments. Instead, you’ll find yourself talking to HR, corporate counsel, and outside counsel.

#4:  Don’t use email instead of the phone.

Using email to share negative feedback, to sternly argue your point, or to deliver bad news can be disastrous. That’s because it’s impossible to read body language via email and sometimes the written word can come off sounding harsher than we intend. So if you have something significant to express, pick up the phone.

Email is an indispensable tool in today’s workplace when used wisely – for example, to deliver messages people already know, to confirm or emphasize thoughts, or to loop in your manager when acknowledging the work of a team member.  But effective leaders do most of their talking the old-fashioned way –  face to face or over the phone. So managers, think long and hard before hitting the “send” button.

© Leila Bulling Towne 2010

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