I have been thinking for quite a while about this one thing and the more I think the more I seem to hate certain “wordsmith species of humans” around us: Why do some people in corporates get a high by sending emails when a simple phone call, messenger tool or a face-to-face conversation could have yielded much better and more immediate resolutions?
I interpret this to be due to one or all of these:
- lack of courage to face a real-time conversation,
- inability of think on ones’ feet and be spontaneous – which becomes required of us when in meetings or dialogues,
- mere laziness to move the legs, walk up to the person or pick the phone up.
- just a shot at making ones’ presence felt in an argument, or topic so as to escape the criticism of being apathetic or ignorant
Most of us know may know of at least one person at work who will be on the same floor as we’re, or maybe even in a neighbouring workstation, but yet will take delight in emailing to get the most urgent of things done. In some cases, an army of people will be copied.
I understand the legitimacy to resort to emails in reaching people who are geographically distant and separated by time-zones or unreachable when required due to valid reasons. But when emails are abused as medium for “discussions”, or “brain-storming” when none of the above legitimate reasons prevail, then the medium is spent inappropriately.
If over-use of emails was not enough, there are also people who use emails as messengers! With close to or more than a dozen people marked in To followed by a telegraphic assertion or request without addressing anyone in particular is reminiscent of the olden days of Telegram. This is only acceptable for “on-the-move” emails sent from hand-held devices where brevity may be excused at all times and under the assumption that the responsibility to action the request does not drop on the floor waiting to be picked up by someone. If such emails are to be sent while on-the-move, then the responsibilities must be known else it will be an anecdotal replay of the Everybody-Somebody-Nobody-Anybody-could-have-done paradox.
But such telegraphic emails sent while you’re on your desk having liberty of a full sized QWERTY keyboard to your comfort? Strictly No! In many cases, there are multiples of such one-lined emails sent in a rapid fire. Much like the messages we see on a messenger, where the “Enter” key is used generously and tax-free!
There is an abundance of material on the web educating on when to use and when not to use emails, and also on how to use. I am least inclined to have my version as I seem to agree to most of them.
There is no cookie cutter solution to tell when emails are to be or not to be used.But a few simple rules I follow and has not disappointed me to this day:
- Understand your task and the expectation from you – if you can’t reach your audience in person, over a messenger tool or over phone – only then choose the email. Choose the most efficient means based on priority of the task on hand.
- If all that matters to you is marketing-your-poor-self by appearing on Inbox ( or Trash?) of others when a phone call or meeting-in-person could have helped better, then please choose to play this lesser-game of wordsmiths. One merit is that the most jobless of recipients may read you.
- If you want to boast – boast loud and clear but do it over the phone again or in person. Let it into the ear lest your carefully drafted words in the email that you edited and re-edited ten times land up in someone’s Trash and add to binary debris. An email is too belittling a tool to announce your good to someone whom you desire to take notice of it.
I follow this because I feel content over a problem having been solved or taken closer to solution and not over being an also-ran in the race to writing most emails over a given topic.