We’re all professionals here, right? Aren’t we a little beyond needing an etiquette lesson on sending emails? Based on some of the emails I see, perhaps not. Listen, we can all use some reminders every now and then on the do’s and don’ts of the workday ways. You don’t want to be that person who annoys everyone around you as you ignorantly blast off a 20MB email to a distribution list of 300 people. Been there before? Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
Here are 5 Common Email Faux Pas to Avoid at Work:
- Set realistic response time expectations. You mean I’m not everyone’s top priority? Okay, simmer down, we’re not saying that you aren’t. But maybe, just for a second, put yourself in your co-worker’s shoes and think about how their day might be going. Your co-worker may not be staring at the computer screen waiting for your email to come through so they can immediately respond to whatever you’re needing in that particular moment. Maybe he or she is in a meeting and can’t respond right away. Maybe your email is the 113th email that came across his or her desk within a 13-minute period. The point is, each person’s day is unique and we need to be respectful of that. Trust that whomever you’re emailing will prioritize as best they can with the emails they receive.
- “Conversation for Monday”. Have you ever received an email at 7PM that makes you feel compelled to respond just after you poured that glass of pinot noir that you’ve literally spent hours thinking about? Yeah, me too. And most of the time, like many of us, the sender likely isn’t expecting you to respond that night; they just happen to be playing catch up and going through their emails for the day at what ended up being a very inconvenient time for you. But what if the subject line read “Conversation for Monday” or “This can wait until tomorrow”? Wouldn’t that make that first swallow of wine go down that much smoother? If you’re like many of us and play catch up with your emails afterhours, maybe start your first line off with a little sentiment that lets the receiver know you are not expecting an immediate reply.
- Are you texting your BFF or sending a professional email? Sometimes I receive emails that closely imitate a text I would receive from my 20-year old son. It goes a little something like this:
R u busy? Need 2 know if you rec’d the file from acctng on the biz review. Let me know, k?
Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. This is really one for the “choosing your audience” category (which incidentally can be applied to many email faux pas). I will clearly draft and address an email to a close co-worker differently than I would to a HU (that’s a “higher up” for those who aren’t fluent in 20-year old text jargon). When sending an email, always keep in the back of your mind that your email could be forwarded several times and seen by an array of different people. K?
- You did NOT just hit ‘reply all’. This is an oldie but a goodie. It never ceases to amaze me when I receive a ‘reply all’ from an email that was originally sent out to the entire global distribution list. And I don’t know what it is that causes a chain reaction to happen. It’s like when you see that first reply all email come through, you just sit back for a moment and watch the email show unfold before you. And then there’s that one person who finally gets annoyed and, yes, replies all, to let everyone know to stop replying all.
But it doesn’t end there. Another annoyed person decides to do the same thing at the same time and sends yet another reply all email lecturing everyone on not replying to all. Eventually the emails start to peter out, but there’s always a straggler or two that comes through several hours later. By then, everyone’s so annoyed that they just ignore it and delete it and move on. The moral of the story here is never reply all if you don’t know how many people are on a distribution list. And take it a step further and remove anyone off of a reply that doesn’t need to be on there anyway. Think before you click.
- We’ve gone over this how many times now? You’ve sent an email in hopes that you’d have your answer in one, maybe two, swift replies. Not so much. What you originally thought would be a simple solution has turned into an email chain the length of Homer’s The Odyssey. It’s time to pick up the phone, people. A good rule of thumb is if an email has come back more than four times without closure, pick up the phone and hash this baby out live. Sometimes a quick phone call can resolve a seemingly difficult problem in half the time it took unclogging your inbox with unsuccessful replies.
If you’ve been an abuser of any of the above, no worries – it’s a clean slate for all of us starting now. Taking a moment to understand your audience and being respectful of others goes a long way in keeping the email harmony among us.