Ahhh email... Probably the most powerful business and communications tool we now have at our disposal.
It can save us so much time, it can waste so much time, and it can also be the source of great errors of communication leading to misunderstanding, embarrassment, and regret.
Here are the worst five mistakes I see people make with emails:
5. Using it Too Much
Email has its place in the whole range of communication methods we use. Don't let it be a substitute for face-to-face talking or phone conversations. I've seen too many people email from their office to the one next door on topics better discussed in person. It is a relatively slow, one-way at a time communication medium, and a lot of quality is lost compared to simply speaking to the other person.
4. Forgetting that Tone of Voice doesn't come through
The biggest inadvertent problem with email is that it is not accompanied by tone of voice or other non-verbal communications (expressions and gestures). Sometimes what we write can be interpreted a number of ways, and the meaning we wanted to get across can be lost.
3. Accidentally Hitting Reply to All
Sometimes when you hit Reply to All instead of Reply on a group email from HR or head office, all you do is annoy everyone else by copying them in. That is unless you write something personal or critical in that email and send it out to the entire group - at best embarrassment, at worst a backlash from the receivers.
2. Not Checking Down the Page
When you forward or reply to an email, most people have their systems setup to put the previous email in below the new writing. After a bit of forwarding and replying there are usually lots of previous emails in the string. But then when you start to copy new people in on the emails, they can look down all the previous ones and perhaps read things that they were not supposed to read, or that they can misunderstand by taking them out of context. Be very careful when you start spreading emails wider with new recipients that you check what's down the page first.
1. Sending Angry Emails
Email is never the place for anger, criticism, gossip or negative feedback. It is far too likely that what you will write will be seen by people other than who you first intended. Never snap off an aggressive email when you have received one that rubs you up the wrong way. Either write your response, save it, and then reread it an hour or day later before sending, or better yet pick up the phone or go see the person. There's a reasonable chance you've misread their tone and are about to make a mistake you can't take back.
The best rule is - if you wouldn't say it to someone's face in front of the rest of your team and boss, don't write it in an email. Because there's a very good chance all those people will eventually read it.
The most important lesson to learn with email is that you cannot take the comments back (don't be fooled by the "Recall" feature), and that eventually they may be shared with people who weren't intended to see them.
If you are writing an email criticizing someone, angry at someone, or passing on negative information about someone, think very carefully before you send it. Mining Man's advice for these situations is:
- Avoid putting these types of things in emails all together - it's hard to convey the message you want, you don't get any instant feedback on the other person's reaction, and you never know who may see it in the future.
- If you must send it in email, or if you want to reply angrily to an email - write the whole thing first and save it without sending. Go and get a coffee, come back to the email in an hour and reread it - you'll see it through clearer eyes and be able to change the parts which would have caused problems.
Have you seen a huge email mistake or made one yourself - leave a comment below with your advice.
Have a safe, productive, and constructive week, and on the topic of email - don't forget to subscribe to Mining Man to get all the new articles sent straight to your inbox.
Before your next presentation or meeting, check out our advice on The Number One Mistake Miners Make with PowerPoint.
- Jamie Ross
Mining Man - Great Safety, Leadership and Productivity Ideas for the Mining Industry
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