For all I gripe about email, it is a powerful tool that is here to stay. At least for a while.
That being said, even the best tools have their limits. There are times when “email” falls short. A short meeting or phone call might be better. Or no communication at all. Just when are those times?
- When you broke your keyboard typing in anger. If a colleague who works on a different floor heard you type your email, you may want to consider a cooling off period before you hit send. Anger and emails are a dangerous couple. Love is forever? That’s up for debate. But not emails.
- Hitting “reply all” for 99.45% of normal work emails. Say you send an email to 10 people asking for input. One person “replies all.” The other nine have a choice. Do they respond to your original question, or do they respond to the new universe that consists of your question and the response? Before you know it, people are weighing in on responses to responses that responded to a response that didn’t come from you. If you want a brainstorming session, call a meeting. If I ruled the world, I’d create a pop-up box when someone hits “reply all” to make sure that’s what they really want to do. I’m telling you, 99.45% of the time, it isn’t.
- When dealing with Jimmy Question. We all have colleagues who would fall into the category of Jimmy or Jane Question. I play that part quite often. When you ask Jimmy or Jane a question, your question will get him/her thinking. Your question will triggertheir question. And your answer to their question will generate another question. And so on. There’s nothing wrong with Jimmy or Jane Question. They are as God made them. So when dealing with them, do a drive-by meeting. 11 times out of 10, it will be more efficient. And when you get the answer you need, plug your ears with your fingers, and run away.
- During a weekend, before 8:30 a.m. or after 6 p.m. There are many exceptions to this rule, but try to avoid breaking it. I’ve heard my phone buzz at 4:30 in the morning. My thoughts never go to a happy place when that happens. 9 times out of 8, the email was not that important. If you need to send the email, that’s cool. Just save it as a draft until normal business hours. The world won’t stop turning.
- When the personal touch comes into play.There’s nothing wrong with the congratulatory email. But it pales in comparison to the congratulatory phone call. Or letter. Today, there are more people struck by lightning then those who receive a hand-written letter in the mail. This statement may not be true, but it feels right.
I’m sure there are other times when you should not send an email. But five reasons seem to be enough for today. So, faithful readers…what are other examples of when people should put down the email machine and slowly walk away?