Danger! Will Robinson – don’t send that email. Remember the Robot calling out to Will in almost every episode of Lost in Space? Well it might serve us all well to think about that warning call before we send out our own messages into space – internet space.
In today’s work environment it has become normal practice to send emails and expect a response almost instantly. It can be a dangerous thing, especially if we are busy or distracted. Most recipients will forgive the odd spelling or grammatical error – we’ve all done that in haste, but it is more difficult to ignore replies on new emails that pop into the inbox that are poorly constructed or worse still send messages that will be misconstrued.
Some of my own bugbears are probably shared by many of you:
- An email sent late in the evening from someone who has perhaps not thought about the content and worse still may not care if their message is hurtful or hints at some underlying issue they have but don’t explain. Messages of this type are hard to ignore, they can eat away at a recipients emotions and leave them doubting their abilities.
- Messages sent to several people simply to ‘keep them in the loop’ but are clearly showing off or trying to place the sender in a better light than you.
- Messages that have been blind copied to more senior people, again aimed at putting the sender in a good light and potentially undermining you as recipient
- And my pet hate, messages from senior staff that send instructions with impossible deadlines and no room for negotiation.
There are many dangers inherent with the examples given above and I’m sure as you read through this blog you will have a few examples of you own to add. The real issue with email is that is depersonalises communication and if written or answered in haste a message can become distorted very quickly. Take that Reply All button – it’s tempting to hit it and send back a message that is actually intended for only the sender but by replying all you embroil many others in an on line conversation you probably didn’t want to have. Keep your fingers off the reply all – think about whether to reply at all or only to the sender. If you must reply keep the message short and even ask for a face to face or phone call and only with the person who sent the message.
What about that late night ramble from someone? Best to ignore until the morning, better still discipline yourself to turn off the emails until morning so you won’t be tempted to into saying something you will regret. Same goes for immediate responses, these are never a good idea especially if you are busy, tired or not in the best frame of mind. If you must reply keep the response in your Draft box and revisit in an hour or so when you have had time to think. Try to imagine the person on the receiving side reading what you have written – reword or dump it altogether.
Lastly the message that is clearly boasting about some achievement or other. If any response is to go it should be to congratulate not abrade and not to point out any input you had in the deal. Be the bigger person. Email is fast and without care can cause issues that were never intended, take it slowly and think before you hit the send button.
If you would like advice or guidance on email etiquette, why not get in touch. Email LIMITLESS Scotland at firstname.lastname@example.org.