Headspace by Greg Bray

Thoughts and observations of an often displaced Aussie, working to rid the professional world of paper - one page at a time - visit me at OzDox.com.au

Friday, 3 July 2009

More Email Faux Pas

My inbox is like yours…it is inundated with messaging faux pas. So much so that perhaps the time has come for firms to conduct compulsory training (and re-training) for all staff on the correct use of email in a business environment!

I am not talking about those annoying things like CAPITALISING the entire email message or placing a ":)" after a thousand word flaming rant - in fact it is not even the content that bothers me in most cases, it is simply the way the email is addressed.

As an example, suppose I receive and email, where my name and the name of another individual are in the "TO" field, and the email request support or clarification on a particular issue. Who should respond?

This type of email message drives me nuts, as it then forces me to contact the other "Addressee" and coordinate our response. Or perhaps, we are too busy to contact each other, and instead assume that the other will respond. The only way this message would be acceptable would be if it began with “Hi Greg & John….can either if you…”.

This leads me to a second item that I wish people would heed…the greeting. I was once guilty of this, but have since reformed my ways. I speak of beginning your email with a little courtesy phrase like “Hi Greg” or “G’day Greg”. Look, I know it’s email and therefore a more informal medium than letter mail, but unless it is an internal email, I would always start my email with a greeting because it reaffirms who the request or declaration in the content is being made to, and therefore who is being held accountable for a response.

The next issue I face is the “CC”, which is already well documented as a heavily misused feature. As somebody that can vaguely recall what an actual carbon copy of a hand typed memo looks like, I can explain it’s original intent was to circulate around a document so that others were aware of a communiqué, but were not actually active participants in the document (i.e. a memo declaring that hats should not be worn inside the building would be sent to the HR department, and CC’ed to the department heads who would then pin it up on the bulletin board).

The key here is that the CC’ed field is really for general for viewing purposes only, but still allows somebody to “chime in” with an idea. In my line of work, if I am CC’ed on an email message, I will not actively participate in the email thread unless there is an item that is blatantly incorrect or disagreeable to me.

Related to this, is to receive an email where I am the named recipient, and there is also a large number of CC’ed addresses – many that I don’t even recognize. I am a firm believer in only involving the "front line troops" in field tactics, and let the generals talk strategy separately. I often reply only to the Sender only, this allowing them to forward my communiqué to any parties with a vested interest.

Lastly, my rule of thumb is to avoid any vagueness in my emails….I iron out at issue and then finish with a directive that let's the Recipient know what that I am expecting an reply. “Let me know” is unambiguous, yet still informal, and is perfect for the closing remark on an email message.

For more of the unsung etiquette when using email, check out http://www.iwillfollow.com/email.htm


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