You’ve been there. You get an email from a colleague that is accusatory or is downright rude and inappropriate. The email is addressed to several people. As you read the email, the words and letters begin to form sentences that spark enraged furry from deep down in your gut. Your ears turn red and your blood pressure spikes. How dare that so and so….!!! You react with self-preservation and vigilance by hitting “Reply All”. In fact, you decide your boss needs to see this, so you “Bcc” him/her. Through your fit of rage, you unleash a barrage of words that belittle and berate the original sender. You do it with a grimace and smirk along with the self-gratification the you will defend yourself and your position to the END and that NO ONE will ever question you again!!! YOU WON!!!
Immediately, after hitting the send button, you receive a text from your boss. Yes! He wants to congratulate you on a great response! Only when you open the text, it says “meet me in my office first thing in the morning.” Well, you get the picture.
Is this the behavior and response you would expect from a leader? I would hope not. However, I see these types of emails and responses every single day. And yes, I’ve been guilty of some of the harshest.
Email and texting are two of the greatest forms of communication since the invention of the telephone. They have increased productivity by huge percentages. People are now connected 24/7. We can email and text our thoughts and ideas anytime, anywhere. However, email and texting have also been the worst inventions since the telephone. Now people can email and text their thoughts and ideas anytime, anywhere. Most of the time this is without any thought or discernment. Email and texting have taken the place of face-to-face communication or a phone call. It’s become the easy way out. Well, that creates problems when connecting and building relationships.
Leaders must understand the role communication and relationships play in leadership. In order to ultimately influence people and eventually lead them, we must ensure we continue to connect and build sincere relationships. Emails and texting, perceived in the wrong way, can disconnect people and ruin relationships.
“Email and texting should never be a substitute for face to face communication or even a phone conversation.”
However, if crafted correctly, these tools can be very effective in re-inforcing your ideas, thoughts or desires.
Here are some rules and etiquette for using email and text. These rules have become very useful and effective and tend to lessen the chance of responding in a destructive or unprofessional manner.
When preparing or crafting an email consider the following thirteen (13) suggestions:
- First consider a face-to-face meeting or phone conversation before sending an email. Especially if the subject and content is sensitive or could be wrongly interrupted.
- Send the email only to those that absolutely need to know the information.
- Only those addressed in the “TO” field are required/expected to respond.
- Anyone addressed in the “CC” field are being included for “information only.” “CC” those that may help reinforce your message or need.
- Those addressed in the “CC” field should not respond unless they have a compelling reason to reinforce the message or if they have additional information considered valuable to the group.
- Make sure the “subject” is an accurate depiction of content. It should include any dates for deadlines, etc.
- Content must be specifically related to your “TO” group. Be specific and clearly communicate your desires, wants or actions.
- Always begin an email with a positive statement. The first 5-7 seconds of your email can determine the outcome.
- There should NEVER be more than two emails discussing the same subject.
- If there is continued disagreement or confusion, you should set up an in person meeting, conference call or video chat.
- READ IT BEFORE YOU HIT SEND AND THEN READ IT AGAIN. Read and re-read your email. Make sure your grammar, spelling and choice of words portrays the intended tone and message.
- Emails should NEVER be used to reprimand, counsel or address disagreements.
- When in doubt…….have a face-to-face conversation.
When replying to emails, consider these ten (10) suggestions:
- Read and reflect on the email content prior to replying. Your leadership effectiveness is reflected in your response.
- Don’t automatically hit “Reply All”. This should only be used when needed, and with extreme caution. You should only use “Reply All” when everyone on the “TO” list requires your response. Most of the time, it is sufficient to only reply to the person who sent the email.
- Be Careful with the “Bcc”. The “Bcc:” option allows you to “blind carbon copy” someone on an email without any of the other recipients knowing. It’s useful in certain instances, such as when sending a message where you wish to keep email addresses private, or when you are requesting information from a group and want to get the responses. However, “Bcc’ing” can also backfire! The best “Bcc” rule of thumb: Never use it for sneaky or “I gotcha” reasons!
- Avoid Cursing. Cursing in an email is wrong, ALL the time and EVERY time!!! End of story. Don’t do it. What if the email is forwarded? It can also be used as grounds for harassment and a hostile work environment. What you write is there forever. I don’t care what Hillary Clinton and the White House say. Cursing in an email comes off as being ignorant or showing a lacking intelligence.
- Use proper grammar. Don’t write like you speak, but instead like a professional. Remember, emails are forwarded all the time. A poorly written email going to the boss or the board can halt a career very quickly.
- Respond Regardless. Everyone deserves a response, even if the email was mistakenly sent to you. A simple, “I got your email”, or “I think this was sent to me by mistake” will let the sender know they are on your radar. Be smart and respond to those emails that suggest action, etc. Information only emails don’t necessarily require a response.
- Be leery of tone. Each person interprets email tone differently. A well written email can easily be interpreted as a negative with the use of various words. In addition, many people use all caps. When you do this, it usually implies YOUR YELLING AT SOMEONE. Unless that is your intention (which it shouldn’t), use *asterisks* around the word or words you want to highlight.
- No cuteness. There is no room in a professional email for cuteness or emotional acronyms. No smiley faces, pink dogs, LOL, BTW
- Include a professional signature. Include a signature. Your signature should include; your full name, title, work address and phone number. When using a quote or image, be careful that it does not offend. Keep everything professional and business appropriate.
- READ IT BEFORE YOU HIT SEND AND READ IT AGAIN. Read and re-read your email. Make sure your grammar, spelling and choice of words portray the intended tone and message.
Texting is easy. In fact, I think it has become the preferred method of communication. Co-workers are texting each other as they sit cubicle to cubicle. Parents are texting children in the next room and, in some cases, from the dinner table to the media room. Texting has become a connivence, it is faster, simpler and easier. Even though the “phone” is a voice communication device, texting has become the preferred mode when using it. It is the lazy way to communicate.
Texting is also gaining acceptance as a formal method of business communication. However, when you are texting for business, it is “imperative you always abide by a specific set of professional etiquette rules”, says career coach Barbara Pachter in her book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette.”
Here are seven (7) texting principles I found to be very helpful:
- Be careful with abbreviations. Texting is meant to be a fast form of communication, so we tend to use abbreviations and shortcuts such as “np” (no problem) or “u” (you). But there is such a thing as an inappropriate abbreviation. Use only shortcuts that are widely known or recognized. Ultimately, the safest route is to type out the entire word or phrase.
- Be aware of your tone. Texting is a fast and easy way to communicate. Make sure you use words that set your intended, not perceived tone. Avoid negative words such as failure, wrong or neglected. Instead, use please and thank you.
- Never send bad news via text. I had an employee resign via text. I was shocked. Needless to say, that bridge was burned. Keep texting positive.
- Don’t change meeting times or venues in a text. Not all people live with their phones in their hands waiting for the ding or vibration. If you change something and communicate via text, you may need to start without your party. HOWEVER, you can confirm meeting times or venues through text. Great way to get a headcount or confirm where you need to be. Just do it early to give the recipient time to respond.
- Always double check when using the voice-to-text feature. Smartphones allow you to speak your message, which the phone then converts to text. But a lot can be lost in the translation. Make sure you what is showing as text, before you hit the send button.
- Don’t text during a meeting or presentation. This is just rude! Even if you are doing it under the table or behind a book, the presenter can tell. As a speaker and trainer, it offended me when I see people looking at their phones.
- Darn autocorrect! This bites me often. Watch the auto correct feature. A great way to beat this problem is to READ your text before you hit send.
By following these simple rules and abiding by proper etiquette, mastering the ability to craft and send effective emails and text can be easy. I crafted this blog, not only because of my shortcomings, but due to the many frustrations I often feel when I see these not used. As a student and teacher of leadership, I want to make sure I do everything possible to influence as many people as I can. I realize how we respond to emails and text can result in positive or negative consequences. I want to do everything in my power to keep it positive; I hope you will too.