Vaguely, I can remember back to the days when email was first introduced into the workplace. Email was a wonderful new thing that allowed you to communicate easily with peers and clients alike; nothing short of amazing.
Fast-forward 20+ years and my thoughts about email have changed drastically, not because of the tool itself, but rather the way in which it’s used so ineffectively that leaves me wanting to pull my hair out while cursing a blue streak. Or drink wine. Both are frowned upon during business hours.
Distribution – i.e., “Who should get this…?”
Quite often an email’s sender is obviously unclear on who needs to receive the message, either leaving out key people, or including everyone and their dog on the distribution. Either scenario leaves me asking the question “WHY?” The CEO of a company I worked for years ago had a well-known personal pet peeve of the “Everyone” distribution group, and yet, we could count on a flurry of “Everyone” emails every Friday afternoon, announcing garage sales, baby and/or bridal showers, fundraising events, etc., followed by the inevitable “Reply All” wishing “Everyone” a great weekend. Yes, email inboxes had a way of filling up quickly on Friday afternoons.
And the Reply Goes To…
Presuming that recipients of the email should be privy to the response(s), it’s always surprising to me when a reply is made only to the sender, or in some cases, the sender and a select individual, thereby splintering off into multiple conversation threads, leaving everyone else wondering whether Bob is ever going to provide a response to that super important email so that everyone knows how to move forward.
If the “Reply” is confusing, then the “Reply All” can be mind-boggling, and occasionally resulting in responses that are either irrelevant, or in some cases inappropriate. Although a direct contradiction to what I’ve said above about the “Reply,” sometimes things said via email that must be dialed down to a smaller audience, especially so with criticism or topics of a sensitive nature.
The Volleyball Match
One of my biggest pet peeves is the email that goes back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth. 87 times. Pick up the phone, schedule a quick meeting, but please just stop volleying back and forth.
We all get these from time-to-time, the email that goes on. And on. And on. And on. The email that brings an immediate sense of overwhelming and dread from the moment you open it. Several paragraphs into the email, your mind starts to wander, so you have to snap yourself back to reality. You pick up where you left off, but your mind starts to wander again, so it’s back to the top to make sure you understand before you continue with The Manifesto.
And then, you get angry. Who is this person that feels the need to write a short novel AND expects you to read it all? Every. Last. Word. And then there are the attachments to The Manifesto, so not only is the email itself 5,000+ words, but there are also 17 attachments to review, too.
If there’s so much information that a simple email becomes a full-fledged Manifesto, complete with 17 attachments, please do us all a favor and schedule a meeting!
Get Out of My Personal Space
Several years ago, I worked with a project manager that seemed to do most of her work during the hours that normal people were sleeping. Between the hours of 11:00pm and 1:00am, she could churn out emails (with action items) at an astounding volume, so it was common to arrive to work at 7:00am and be greeted by 50+ emails from just this one indivudual The expectation was that all 50+ emails and action items were addressed by the time she arrived in the office at 9:00ish each day.
Emails also poured in over the weekend at an astonishing rate, and I remember being so angry at the invasion into my personal time. There was a point in my life that I would take the time to read and respond, but no more. Sure, I’m guilty of checking my phone over the weekend or in the evenings, but if it’s not “hair on fire and the sky is falling” then I wait until office hours to respond.
I too, have been guilty of generating late night or weekend emails, especially when catching up after a travel or PTO day, but knowing just how invasive these can be, I at least try to use the “delay delivery” feature to regular office hours so that I don’t become known as a space invader.