Warning: Don’t Send that Email!

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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

  1. Avoid mixed messages and multiple subjects in your email
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

Agendas can only go so far without engagement; don’t let email be your first/last/only resort!

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