Email can be a CLM – a career limiting move. Have you ever accidentally clicked reply all after sounding off without any editing? Has that never happened to you? I'm pretty sure it has. One of the career changing step ups I made was learning to use email more effectively by giving myself guidelines I like to follow.
First, when I see an error (like a typo, a wrong attachment, or inaccurate statement in an email rather than reply all and embarrass the person especially if they are on my team– I reply to that person and point it out. I would want that to happen to me and even thought it totally DOESN’T that often I still treat email as a kindness tool opportunity. Of course, there are situations when you have to reply all to make a point or enforce a rule, so you need to make some decisions. Here’s some other tips and tricks:
1. I also try to suggest improvements directly to the person so that it doesn’t look like I’m trying to grandstand or bully remember you’re really on all the same TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More).
2. If an email turns into many paragraphs I setup a meeting and turn that email into an agenda.
3. When I’m working in an ESL, technical, or unfamiliar environment, I keep the sentences short, direct and mostly present tense. Keeping it simple helps convey the topic for everyone.
4. Try not to reply all unless everyone (like a team) is working on the topic and needs to see the replies.
5. Keep as much emotion out of the email and don’t go on and on about the topic. If you need to really discuss it then call a meeting. When people have an ax to grind and I get the email it sets my teeth on edge and makes me wonder if I ever want to open another one from them. So, I try to use the next tip.
6. Accept the email as a non-emotional item. Its weird but if you think of the email as ‘a thing’ that doesn’t have emotion, when you read it you are less likely to infer emotion or attitude from the writer and then get mad. The email author may have no emotion meant at all so might be surprised if you read emotion into their email.
7. When I get angry, I may answer an email right away, delete it and walk away. Delete is key here – don’t save it in your drafts in case it accidentally gets sent. It then allows me to write a more professional email when I’ve had a chance to reflect and relax.
8. When I make a mistake in an email – and it’s pointed out even in “a not so nice way” - I still reply all and say sorry and fix the mistake. Owning errors is a trust builder with your audience.
9. When you can – reach out and say thank you when someone sends you what you need or great job when someone takes a proactive approach.
10. Think about each person on the email and talk to them so they understand why they are on the email and then they don’t automatically just dismiss your information.
11. Take some training on writing effective emails since we are all doing it a lot in business and our personal life and it’s worth it to be able to communicate clearly in this format.
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