I once wrote an email message that was so powerful, it got me an all-expense-paid trip to Miami.
And, when I got there, the Federal Judge gave me an opportunity to explain exactly what I meant…(a true story)
I believe it was Michael Hutchence who sang it best: “Words are weapons, sharper than knives…”
When it comes to email, there are a few rules you should consider before you use your weapons. Trust me: misplaced words can get you an unwanted reaction.
What Not to Do in Your Next Email
- Avoid mixed messages and multiple subjects in your email
- Opinions and “freedom of speech” rants belong in your blog or should stay at Starbucks (check out Rantitude if you’re looking for some material in this area.)
- Always include a subject line: Everyone needs a little mystery, I guess. But: Dontcha hate that “no subject” stuff?
Watch out for these electronic gotchas:
- Warning: Going over your bosses head?
- Cc’ing more than 3 people?
- Feeling a need to unwind, express yourself, or maybe give someone (or some department) a piece of your mind?
Don’t do it!!
Consider this instead of email:
What works best via phone, or face time? (clarification: that means face-to-face time, for you iPhone users – no, there’s not an app for that)
email is one way communication (transmit only). Others can reply, so it is slowly interactive, but it’s like trading monologues. If you feel a sermon coming on, better get to church! Brief emails are always best, unless you are providing (linear and single-subject) instruction.
Even then, consider your goals before you send that email:
- Does this email confirm prior expectations, or set them?
- If you are delivering important info for the first time, consider: do I need to “touch and go” – would a personal touch help to clarify this message and help others to get enrolled in the objectives?
Example: ideas for improving the department, curriculum changes, introducing a new software program for faculty/staff/students. Don’t expect people to just “read the memo”.
Change is managed best between people, email supports and documents decisions (it can’t capture hearts and minds – that requires leadership, which still has to happen in person). The support mechanisms are not a substitute for engagement, dialogue and real-time discourse.