2,000,000 e-mails fly through cyberspace every second. You would think with all this practice we’d get it right by now…not even close! People still send e-mail to:
- Share confidential information
- Deliver difficult feedback
- Avoid using the phone
- Avoid meeting face-to-face
If you are sitting there right now about to hit the send button – STOP! Read this first.
Is e-mail always the best choice? The simple answer to the question - “NO, e-mail is not the best choice for every communication.” As writing skills training experts, IWCC would like to warn you that the more important question is, “How do I know when e-mail isn’t the best choice?” Let IWCC help you answer that question.
Below are three things to consider before you add another e-mail to the 2,000,000 flying around in cyberspace every second.
1. High Risk: Sending Confidential Information in E-Mail
The minute you hit send and your e-mail flies into cyberspace, you have lost control over where it ultimately lands. Oh you sent it to the right people perhaps, but what if you accidentally put in the wrong e-mail address? Or, what if one of the people receiving your e-mail forwards it to someone else and so on and so on and so on? At IWCC, we have four Nancys on our team…easy for any of us to click on the wrong name and send the e-mail to the wrong Nancy.
Still not convinced? Google “government confidential email”.
2. Bad Idea: Delivering Feedback in an E-Mail
A participant once told us that a friend was informed in an e-mail that they lost their job. How would you like to receive that news in an e-mail?
Feedback is best handled in person, or at least over the telephone. If you have the ability to meet in person or at least call, don’t hide behind e-mail because you are uncomfortable giving feedback. Some folks argue that they can be more honest in an e-mail when delivering negative/constructive feedback. Others may argue that they can send a quick e-mail immediately following the behaviour – isn’t that how you should give feedback – immediately? A phone call can be immediate too, even if meeting face-to-face would not be.
Before you send feedback in an e-mail, STOP! Think about how you would prefer to receive it.
3. Poor Judgement: Writing instead of Walking
Does your manager send you e-mail even though she lives across the hall? Hmm, I wonder if that means she prefers to communicate and be communicated with in writing. Or, think about that colleague who always strolls into your office with news or a problem to discuss. Hmm, perhaps he prefers to communicate and be communicated with in person. What about your direct reports – does one of them always phone you even though e-mail would be faster? You get the idea.
Everyone has a preferred communication style – respect it! Use that style to communicate with that person whenever possible. If your boss likes to read, write it in an e-mail. If your colleague likes to meet face-to-face, take time to visit. If your direct report likes to talk, make a phone call.
Let’s start getting it right.