It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the average office worker get 121 emails a day (is it me or does it feel like even more?).
Has any invention ever been so simultaneously useful and annoying?
Email can be an incredibly useful tool, but is often poorly used.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of a long and badly constructed email, sent to four people, but copied to 100. You laboriously trawl through it only to reach the end wondering exactly what you’re meant to do next.
It’s a waste of everyone’s time and there’s no surer way of becoming the least popular person in the office.
So, here’s ten rules to stay popular in the workplace:
- Don’t abuse emails
If you can see the person, go and talk to them. If you can phone the person, do it. In today’s fast-paced world, too many people are using emails as a substitute for conversations. Use email as part of your communication arsenal, don’t treat it as your main weapon.
- Think before you copy
An extension of rule number one. Does everyone in your ‘to’ or ‘cc’ line really need to be there? If you’re keeping someone cc’d for info, wait until the email conversation has concluded before forwarding it on, making it clear it’s for info only. Be kind and include a short summary to save them having to read lengthy email chains to try and figure out why it’s relevant for them.
- Use a meaningful heading
Avoid vague titles. If your email is asking a question, flag that in the subject line. If you’re following up on a meeting, say so. This also applies to forwarding emails – if you don’t think the original title is helpful, change it before you press send.
- Stay focussed
Keep your email concise and easy to follow. People naturally skim-read so it’s important keep your email well formatted so that it’s easy to pull out the key points.
- Use sub-headings and bullet points where appropriate
- If there’s a specific action for someone, make it explicit and include a deadline
- If you need to speak to someone about two different projects, consider sending two emails to keep things clear
Because of the speed of which we can type, and the fact that emails are often reactive in nature, it’s very easy to make typos. Read your email before you send it. Make sure it’s polite (it’s easy to forget common courtesy when you’re in a hurry), legible and to the point.
- Don’t assume privacy
If you’re emailing someone about a work project, there’s every chance they may share it with someone else. Treat your email as a public document (unless it is confidential and marked as such). If you wouldn’t want Doris in accounts to read it, don’t write it.
- Be aware of your tone
During face-to-face conversations we interpret body language, expressions and tone of voice. These are just as important as the words we use, but we lose that when we reduce conversations to the written word.
It’s very easy for an email written in haste to come across as demanding or dismissive.
- Don’t use caps lock – IT COMES ACROSS AS SHOUTY!!!
- You don’t need to be overly formal in most situations, but be polite. If you’re asking someone for something, please and thank you are a must
- Reread your email before you press send. Make sure the ask is clear and the tone respectful
- Identify yourself
Many of us mistakenly assume that our email signature tells the recipient what they need to know about us, but do any of us fully understand what our colleagues in other departments do? Introduce yourself and explain why you’re contacting them and how you want to work together.
- Think before you send
Unfortunately, politics play a big part in the workplace and you will sometimes find yourself on the receiving end of an unwanted email or sandwiched between clashing egos. Caught in the moment, we type a scathing response (possibly ranting in hushed tones as we do it). Resist the urge to press send. Trust me, it will not help. Take some time out and then pick up the phone to talk it through.
- Follow up on your email
Your email will be just one of many received that day, so stand out from the crowd by picking up the phone. Make sure the person understands your email and see if they have any questions. Ask when you can expect to hear from them.
Follow these easy rules and you’ll be well on your way to becoming one of the office heroes.