Is there any annoyance in an organization that people gripe about more than bad email habits? Yes, okay, break-room messes are probably at the top of that list. But email is high up there, too.
That’s because the pet peeves are many. There’s the guy who copies everyone and anyone on his messages, even if they have little or nothing to do with the project being discussed. There are the “see my replies IN ALL CAPS” people who make every conversation unreadable. There are the over-repliers who keep an email chain going long after it should have stopped. (Hint: An email that says, “Thank you,” does not require a, “You are most welcome,” reply.)
All these little irritants are just the beginning. Email too often replaces face-to-face or phone conversations that could be more efficient and productive. That’s why one executive recently banned internal email — all of it — for a week.
That’s a bold decision, but it’s not a permanent solution. Email is the way we all get work done. That’s the reality of business. So we’ve all learned to live with the little annoyances. The problem with that is these little annoyances are actually big problems in the aggregate. If you have dozens of communications a day that aren’t as efficient or as clear as they could be, then you have a serious issue to address.
Our advice: Address email exactly as you would any other major challenge facing your organization. If you’re running a factory and productivity has suddenly slipped, you start asking why. You task yourself and others to help find and implement solutions. And you try to get everyone who works at the factory to buy into the changes, to “own” them, as we like to say.
It might seem silly to do the same with email because you may look at email as no different than conversations you have in that messy break room. But it’s not. It’s written business communication. As such, it needs to be clear, direct, and actionable.
Suppose you created a task force — a group of people with different levels of authority who have been drawn from different parts of your organization — to study emails, looking for breakdowns in the communication chain and researching things other companies are doing with their email that works. Now suppose you asked that task force to try and get your whole team to “own” a set of recommended changes. Would it be hard to get buy-in on a plan that addressed all those little annoyances that aggregate to be big issues? We think not. But feel free to email us, and let us know how it goes.