I still want to slap my forehead when I think about it.
A colleague was preparing a report for NAFCU’s board of directors. I emailed him to see when I could expect it. Unfortunately, I “fat-fingered” my iPhone, ending the sentence with an exclamation point by accident.
“When will I see it?” became “When will I see it!”
His reply seemed strange, until I saw what I did. While I cleared things up, I’m sure Greg wasted 15 minutes wondering what I meant.
I’m not alone in sending cryptic emails. This article from the Wall Street Journal dives into the subject.
Jill Campen was baffled recently when her boss Marty Finkle fired back a one-word reply to her carefully thought-out email asking for his approval on a client-training presentation she had prepared: “Done!” Ms. Campen, a consultant at Scotwork North America in Parsippany, N.J., puzzled over the message for a half-hour, then decided she was too upset to resolve the matter by email. She called Mr. Finkle and asked, “What is going on with you? ‘Done?’ What does that mean?”
Mr. Finkle, chief executive officer of Scotwork North America, a negotiating-skills training and consulting company, was dismayed. He told Ms. Campen that he trusts her to do a good job and went on to explain that he had been rushing to answer a client’s email and empty his in-box of the 100 to 150 emails he receives daily. When her message popped up, his first thought was, “We’ve already talked about this. I could get rid of this really quickly.” By the end of the conversation, the two were laughing.
She wasted half an hour before resolving the issue with a phone call. That isn’t uncommon. How many of you have seen a day or good mood ruined by an email – only to find out that the email was misunderstood?
But here’s the problem – the pace of email is only getting worse.
The number of emails sent or received daily by the typical corporate employee is expected to rise to 136 by 2017 from 121 this year, based on projections released last November by the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., market-research firm. Managers, who receive the most, are “flooded by email,” says Nancy Ancowitz, a New York business communications coach. Many a manager multitasks to get through it all, “emailing from a mobile device at a stoplight, typing with his thumbs,” Ms. Ancowitz says.
I’ll end with these thoughts.
- There are no simple, throw-away emails. Each one counts – even those one-word replies.
- If you lead a team or organization, people will read into everything you do. Body language, tone, facial expression, eye-contact. But email strips you of everything except the written word. Can the words you are writing be taken the wrong way? If so, slow down and edit the email.
- Taking time to write thoughtful emails may seem time-consuming. But as a leader, your emails trickle down through the entire organization. The thirty seconds you may save firing off a quick email could lead to hours or days of confusion. The cost/benefit analysis, at least for me, says that sending thoughtful, clear emails will be more efficient over time.