When Not To Use Email

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It’s often said these days that we have never had as much information as we have today, and never communicated less than we do today.

There’s some element of truth in that. How many times do you find yourself immersed in information, yet unable to get someone to carry out a simple task for you?

When it comes to email, we often use it when talking and listening would have suited the situation better. Email is one-way communication, and rarely live. You can’t put the message across in the same way as you would if you face-to-face with the person, there’s no body language and you can’t hear the tone that the message was intended to convey.

In order to keep working relationships constructive and productivity high, here are some situations where you should think twice before using email for communication:

* Giving constructive feedback on performance issues. Positive feedback for good performance may be welcomed by the person receiving the email, but it has less impact than if done face-to-face. If you give negative feedback, it is often interpreted by the receiver much worse than the intention might have been. There isn’t the opportunity for the receiver to justify their side of the argument, they can’t clarify anything that was written and they can’t start working out solutions. Besides that, the person might wonder why you didn’t have the confidence to speak to your face about it.

All feedback about performance is better given verbally, eye-to-eye.

* After previous emails have gone without response. There could be many reasons for this lack of response, and if you continue, you may get a very irritated receiver. This is the ideal time to pick up the phone or go and see the person. It might take some effort to get hold of the person, but it will be worth the effort.

* When the issue is sensitive. If the subject is touchy or has emotion associated with it, it’s probably best not to get too bogged down with the written word, because you can’t hear the other person’s reaction and what they are thinking. This one-way form of communication increases the chances of misunderstanding.

* When you have conflict or concerns. An email is probably one of the best ways to aggravate a conflict. If you have a strong opinion and voice it via email, what would you expect as a response? Even if the other person is apologetic, wouldn’t it be better dealt with in person? The interpretation the other person gives it may well be different to what you intended.

If you find you are constantly drafting and redrafting an email, maybe you shouldn’t send it. If the issue involves a lot of emotion or feeling, maybe that is telling you it will only be sorted by facing up to the issue an doing something about it face-to-face or over the phone.

Thanks again

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 15 February, 2012

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