Many times we turn to email because it’s really efficient, and most professionals read it. That cannot be said about letters and voicemail today. Email is a hot communication tool – according to one source, executives receive an average of 152 emails a day. Thank God for spam filters!
However, a global survey in CIO magazine reports that 67 percent of senior executives say their companies would be much better off if bosses spoke one-on-one with employees instead of resorting to email. Nevertheless, these same people said email is their top method for personal communication.
Employees don’t love email. In a British study, a whopping 56% of employees indicated email was overused, and a call or conversation is often a better way to convey information. And the “Email in the Workplace” blog charges that 50% of daily emails might be ineffective. That seems conservative to me.
While email serves an essential service today, personal conversation has its place. What are some common-sense approaches to achieving an effective balance?
• If there’s a problem, crisis or fight, please pick up the phone immediately. Better yet, bring all warring factions into a room and hammer out a game plan with honesty and an eye toward a solution.
• Routine inquiries on meeting times, straightforward information updates and simple questions are handled well by digital delivery. Most people prefer the simplicity and directness of email.
• A phone call (sometimes) or a personal visit (almost always) is the best way to see any reaction to what you are saying. Email does not pick up inflection, tone and tenor.
Finally, ask yourself, “How would I want to be approached?” That may help you decide on your next communique.
But even when email is preferable, write like Capote. Great writing helps avoid confusion and misunderstanding. Also, be careful about using jargon and acronyms. Not everyone is part of the club. And finally, consider if there even needs to be an email. I get a lot of “thank you” emails after an exchange. While courteous, it often isn’t necessary. And please, stop with the happy faces.
In this multimedia world, it benefits us to consider the medium as well as the message: What’s the most effective, efficient and successful way to communicate with others? And, sometimes, it may take two or all three methods to get it done.