Email culture is broken — and fixing it will require a concerted effort. To start, individuals must think bigger than protecting their own inboxes, focusing instead on reducing the collective email traffic of the team as a whole. The authors review the basics of email etiquette and suggest three strategic habits that can help teams and organizations move toward what they call a compassionate email culture.
Protecting your colleagues’ inboxes starts with getting the basics right. Let’s review:
· Curate and focus your recipient list before you hit send. Does everyone really need to be on the thread? Remove anyone unnecessary; they can always be added later.
· Write succinctly and in an organized fashion. The content of every message should be clear and specific: What’s the question, the request you need approved, or the information you need to deliver?
· Apply situational awareness. Ask yourself: Does this conversation really need to happen over email? Could it be a phone or video call instead? Many messages can be deferred until the next casual conversation or routine scheduled meeting.
Email culture is broken. No matter how hard we try, it feels impossible to actually reach inbox zero. But to fix the problem you have to think outside of your own inbox. It may sound counterintuitive, but focusing on reducing your team’s collective email traffic will help create a better culture for everyone. Here are three strategic habits that will help:
1. Consider BCC. Use BCC for any email to two or more recipients that doesn’t require them to communicate directly. This reduces the possibility of an endless reply-all thread or conversations that veer off-topic. If you need to discuss things as a group, consider a meeting instead.
2. Be conscientious about timing. Do your best to make sure your emails are delivered during the work day. Off-hour correspondence unfairly distracts the recipient, who might reflexively feel the need to reply in the moment.
3. Use plug-ins. Whether they're used for scheduling emails in advance, sending meeting invitations directly to your recipients' calendars, or simply "liking" a message instead of sending a response, in-app or third-party plug-ins can help you reduce the number of messages you send each day.
Leveraging these powerful concepts, along with practicing the basics of email etiquette, will help you protect your colleagues’ inboxes and foster a compassionate email culture. If the collective community starts to respect others’ workload and schedule, there will be less email all around. In this model, everyone wins.
How do you write your emails??
Are your emails direct or compassionate?
Landry, A., and Lewiss, E. (2021, March). What a Compassionate Email Culture Looks Like. Harvard Business Review.
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