Last week we started evaluating email overload and broke the purpose of email down into two parts. We covered how a large majority of emails are received because someone is asking you to complete a task and this week, we’ll dive into communicating via email.

A Bad Idea

You’re faced with a challenge that continues to rear its ugly head. Out of frustration, you draft an email, address it to the person who’s responsible for these types of things, and cc everyone who you believe should be aware. When you’re done venting your concerns, you hit send.

Before you know it, someone on the list has hit ‘reply all’ and the nightmare email chain begins. Everyone on the email probably has an opinion about what happened and before you know it, the email trail is out of control and it’s nearly impossible to follow the conversation. Everyone who was included in that email has now been sucked in and there’s no solution in sight.

Emails that require back-and-forth communication or are intended to resolve an issue may not always be this dramatic, but they most certainly consume valuable time. Emails like these are a strain on resources and stress levels.

Emails and Conversation

When it comes to having a conversation with your team, colleagues, clients, etc., nine times out of ten doing so via email isn’t the best idea. Tone, delivery, interpretation, and perception all play a huge role in conversation and all of this tends to get lost in email. Because of the back-and-forth nature of email, the conversation can become disjointed and it’s extremely difficult to find a solution. Often times, conversations via email drag out over longer periods of time, which takes its toll on everyone who’s been included in the email.

How To Change These Conversations

If there’s a need to have a conversation about a topic, avoid beginning the conversation in an email. Find the right time to have the conversation and wait until then to discuss in person. Depending on your working environment, it might be more appropriate to wait until a standing meeting or simply begin a face-to-face conversation in the office. If there’s a need to have the conversation with a specific group of people, create a clear agenda and schedule a meeting. As a leader, you should be giving your team plenty of opportunities to have conversations about their work without having to do so in an email.

How To Address Emergencies

Has your team or organization defined what a true emergency is? An emergency means that everyone should stop what they’re doing and all hands should be on deck. Nothing else is more important than what is happening right now.

In an e-commerce environment (like, an emergency would be if their website went down or if they weren’t able to collect money.

For financial institutions, an emergency is if they’re unable to loan money or trigger transactions.

For a brick-and-mortar, it means that someone broke into the store and stole all of the merchandise.

It’s important to define what a true emergency is in your working environment because we see our clients become consumed by faux emergencies often. Particularly in emails. In a majority of these cases, requests and responses are treated like emergencies when in reality, they’re not. If your team is experiencing an emergency, there should be an escalation plan in place so your team knows exactly what to do or who to go to. Addressing a true emergency is the only time work should be interrupted.

Removing Obstacles

The biggest thing to understand when it comes to communication is that barriers are bad. As a leader, you should be clearing the path for your team so they can do their best work. If anything is standing in their way of being able to communicate, you should be removing whatever obstacle that is. Even if its email.

Need help improving communication within your team or organization? Contact us to learn about our business coaching services.