being professional emails

Email etiquette rules in the workplace

Today’s topic: email etiquette rules in the workplace. Have you ever been completely awestruck by a rude, silly, or insensitive email?

I have! I can believe how ignorant (or insensitive) some managers email communications can be. I’ve met and encountered several leaders who desperately need to read an entire book on email etiquette tips for managers.

What surprised me most was that the person’s email tone was completely different from the person I had met. In other words, the sender was warm, charming, and professional in person, but via email, they morphed into evil, mean, wicked Rumpelstiltskin.

Why do you think people present different personas via email?

Email etiquette rules in the workplace has the ripple effects.

In the end, your email communications have many implications as it pertains to team morale and workplace culture – especially if you are in management.

I found that Ian Emery did a great job summarizing this point in a Huffington Post article called, “A Little Email Etiquette Can Help Banish Workplace Blues”.

In the piece, he referenced a survey, conducted by CPP (publishers of the Type Indicator) that said 92% of people agree that email is an important and “valuable” method of communication.

That’s a no-brainer, right. But, did you know 64% of people said emails they may have received (or even send to others) fostered inadvertent “anger or confusion”?

A few chief culprits of the “anger or confusion” are:

– failure to respond (51 percent)

– too many “Reply Alls” (25 percent)

– messages that were confusing or vague (19 percent)

– emails that are too long (12 percent)

And my personal favorite: 18% cite just too much email in general!

You see the problems listed above and likely knew them before reading this post. So, let’s talk solutions for a common email faux pas:

Email faux pas 1: The No Reply person. The survey said 51% of people are bugged by this one. I should be counted among them.

Ok. As your email etiquette rules in the workplace.

Think of an email dialogue as …a …conversation. Yes, a conversation, that is exactly what it is, right?

Every conversation always has an opening and an ending. Regardless of the subject matter or how many emails comprise the conversation, it’s good practice to formally bring it to a proper end.  That’s why we say “bye” in telephone calls.

I have some ideas for you. Reply with one of the following to bring the email exchange to a full conclusion:

  •  “Thanks.  Good to know this issue is in good hands”.
  • “Sounds good. This course of action should put this issue “to bed” once and for all”.
  • “Have a good day”
  • “Ok”
  • “Will do”.
  • “Appreciate you taking care of this”.

My point: Officially close conversations so someone can “mark” you off their list.

Email faux pas 2: Too many emails can be maddening. Before you opt for email communication, ask yourself “should, or could this be a voice conversation?” Voice conversations are quick, easy, and perfect for more complicated issues.

They are also the perfect remedy to the dreaded time-eating, blah blah blah email string. Why send an email when you can handle something quickly and efficiently with a real-time conversation?

In the instance, you need to document something communicated, speak face-to-face, and then send an email to recap what was discussed.

Along the same lines, be judicious with the “reply to all” button (as stated above). Unless everyone needs to be included, don’t do it.  Don’t you hate long email threads that don’t concern you? Most people do. Sometimes, the threads get so long and conversational, I create rules in Outlook to automatically delete them.

My point: sometimes, a speedy conversation can progress and complete a process quickly and completely.

Faux pas 3: The emotionally-ambiguous email sender is frustrating.

As you know, it is difficult to convey tone via email. An email with nice intent can seem rude to the reader while an intentionally brisk email can even come across funny.

Choose your words judiciously, paying special attention to tone perception.

Not sure how your email can be perceived?

Be on the safe side and err toward being overly polite. This is better than sending a communication that could mistakenly offend someone.

My point:  Consider tone and perception before you hit send.

Faux pas 4: The email intimidator.  Some people send emails with the intent of “flexing” and demonstrating their power.

Consider using terms like:

  • “I ask that…”
  • “We need you to…”
  • “It would help if…”

It’s easy to convey a thought or directive without belittling the reader or making someone feel small.

Remember, you get more from your staff when they are devoted to you than if they are fearful of you.  Be a respectful, compassionate leader – in real life and in email conversations.

My point: Don’t play out your “little man” issues via email. Don’t be a cyber-jerk or email bully.

Faux pas 5: The drama queen. This tip is an oldie but goodie: don’t overuse caps.  Instead, be very sparing with them.  Besides, they lose their power with over utilization.

May I be honest? They also make you look like a bit of a “drama queen”. Few people take “drama queens” seriously.

If your email requires an emotional charge, opt for a face-to-face meeting.

Don’t forget, bolded, underlined text and capital letters are the cyber equivalents to screaming or yelling (see faux pas #4).

Are you old enough to remember Chicken Little and the sky is falling? Well, too many accented fonts and caps make you look like that to your team. Then you become the fodder of lunchtime jokes.

My point: kill the dramatics and avoid text accents.

What did I miss in this post?

Here is a link to the Huffington Post article:

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