The Ten Commandments of Email

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Self-expression is important. Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using Email appropriately (and effectively)

1. Thou Shalt Keep it Clean.

No porn, no pictures of your body-business, no sharp language.

Why? Look at this button, it says: “Forward”.
You can’t unring a bell so choose your words (and images!) carefully.
Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting and a smart signature ~ no need for fourteen lines about your academic and professional accomplishments, if we work together every day.

2. Thou Shalt Not Rant.

Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising that right means using it the right way. If you disagree with the recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure.

How does ranting get any meaningful results? Sure, you may feel better…until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude. Or, your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not (just) into an email so you can feel better.

3. Thou Shalt Not Reply All.

Resist the temptation and it will flee from you.

4. Thou Shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE.

Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why? STOP IT! (whoops, sorry. Moving on…)

5. Plan that time-sensitive info will FAIL, via email.

Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling – assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday.

What works best in email: Information, Instruction (or confirmation) and Documentation.

Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face-to-face. Email can’t do it all!

6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely.

When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!

7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people.

It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc:ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc:ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).

8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool.

Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers, or others.

9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers inbox with enormous attachments.

Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox or some other service. Be smart about large file transfer. ‘Nuff said.

10. Send commands via email wisely. Please. And, thank you.

Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need.

Before you hit “send”, ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email.

Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law – there’s no ‘manual’. But, there are expectations.

What are yours?


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Image Courtesy of dahlstroms. Used under creative commons license, some rights reserved.

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